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Showing posts from 2011

Focus on the Customer

What does it take to have a first rate customer experience when there are more customers than sales representatives?  Yes, this means there is going to be some form of wait, a queue.  Here is my comparison of experience at the Apple Store to that of the restaurant, CheeseCake Factory which we went to right afterwards.

At the Apple store we were put on a wait list to see a representative (the greeter used a text description and my wife's name to put her on the list explaining that the next available person would find us, as we browsed).  I asked what the description was, and this is how my wife was described: "tall, with long hair, in a jean jacket with multi-colored scarf".  I suggested that they had the technology to just snap a picture and attached it.  She said there might be privacy concerns with that.

We browsed and found the item we needed (a Mini Display Port - HDMI adapter).  About the time we had found it an Apple person (wearing a red shirt for the holidays) wa…

Visualize Your Problem Domain

Do you innovate new ways to visualize your problem domain?

The health care field is constantly using technology to visualize their problem domain.  They teach with color coded pictures, pink muscles, red arteries, blue veins, yellow nerves, etc. Yet the actual patient doesn't arrive on the surgens table with this color coding - YET.  They can do quite miraculous tricks with imaging (x-Ray, CT Scans, MRI, etc) and some imaging techniques are in real time.  Here is a video of the latest technique I've seen.  To visualize the problem.

I love the history and context Ms Nguyen gives us in this video.  The reason for surgery theaters to be where their were in old buildings.  Now with electric lights they can be in the basements, many times they are because of the heavy equipment they contain.

Apply this to the domain of software development.  Yes, we also use color coding to visualize the field, we have IDEs that give unique color to constants for example.  Yet we can not yet tag a …

Yes - You Need a Full Time Scrum Master

Many organizations adopting Scrum ask these questions.
Do we need a full time Scrum master for each team?Why do we need a full time Scrum master, can't they do other roles also?
Now allow me to give you the answers:  Yes, you need a full time Scrum Master.Why - watch the video.Let me explain:
Yes, you need a full time Scrum master, because they will be constantly watching for the actions of the team.  Making sure that the team member are working in flow as often as possible.  This is a full time job.
Why can the scrum master not do other roles on the team? Because of the human ability of selective attention.  First let me show you a video - a little test of your superior ability to follow instructions.  Perhaps you've seen this video - if so, just play along, maybe you will be surprised at how well you do on the test.

The Monkey Business Illusion
Now do you understand why we need a Scrum master watch out for impediments …

Is Time-to-Market really a Key Differentiator?

Why do some product win in the market place and some lose?  Is being first to market the key distinction between winning and losing?

The Agile software development movement has this one aspect (time-to-market) as key differentiator.  Many surveys note this aspect as a reason to adopt Agile methods.  Business people resonate with this value proposition.  The Lean Startup movement has this within its core.  It appears just common sense.  But is it good practice - is it a true cause and effect relationship?  If one is first in the market place with a new product, will it capture market share and become the de-facto standard product in the market segment?

Take the case of the cookie - the Oreo Cookie (introduced in 1912) - have you heard the back story?  It was the perhaps a knock-off of the Hydrox cookie (introduced in 1908), the first in the market segment, yet always labeled "imitator" and never a strong competitor (Oreos to Hydrox: Resistance is Futile).

It certainly did no…

Info-radiator; Better than Google Analytics

What is better than Google Analytics (web analytics made smarter, friendlier and free)?  How about web analytics made into an INFO-RADIATOR?

What is an info-radiator?
“An Information radiator is a display posted in a place where people can see it as they work or walk by. It shows readers information they care about without having to ask anyone a question. This means more communication with fewer interruptions."
  -- Alistair CockburnSee also:  Big Visible Chart, Informative Workspaces, Information Radiators.

This concept is a mash-up of publishing information with information graphics and personal interactive engagement.

So here is my latest attempt to create one of these mash-ups.  It is an attempt to disseminate information about some Scrum videos and a survey on basic training evaluation (did the learner like and value the training).  One problem with this poster is that it may spark interest in the topic - yet there was a poor actionable behavior associated this reading the pos…

Play != Games

I'm excited to see Game Storming the iPhone app.

Dave Gray notes that "games and play are not the same thing."  He will teach you to bring games into the work place to get work done.  I think one of the side effects is that you may start to have fun.  For many people work will never be the same as play.  Yet if you want to change the world (thank you Steve Jobs); if you wish to have a purpose aligned life, then you will need to find a way to make play equal to work.  For me, this involves bring games into the work place.

Related posts:
Games and the Human
Agile tools for your iPhone - a list

Every object should have multiple uses.

Working on a honey-do item from the task board today.  It was to cut the dinning room table into, shorten it by about 12- 20 inches.  I was working with a limited selection of tools.  I needed a short straight edge, skill-saw guide.  I had a 6 foot straight edge for the table top - but needed a small one for the table skirt. Looking around I couldn't find one until I looked at the book shelf.  So I grabbed "Agile Estimating and Planning" by Mike Cohn.  I though it was quite appropriate.

Help me Circle you up on G+

Do you want to help me circle you on G+ - if so edit your profile and place a sentence or two in the field "Employment". Then when I mouse over your name I get a richer understanding of who you are. It helps me decide which of my circles I'd like to put you in - keep in mine the empty circle is also a choice. So help me out.

G+ > Profile > Employment (describe yourself)

What have we LEARNED?

Scrum is a stepping stone toward the organization becoming a learning organization, and much of being Agile is about the opportunity to learn. In the modern world of knowledge workers, if the people are not learning on the job, then they are not creating new knowledge. We create new knowledge by understanding the context of new problems, deconstructing the problem, understanding the forces acting within the system, creating solutions to solve them, and then remembering the decisions that resolved the forces and applying them to new challenges. Experience comes from numerous encounters with similar problems. When we reflect on new problems, we generalize and abstract guidelines and rules – this synthesis is learning. Reflection requires time and distance from the immediate problem.

At what point in the Scrum framework do we focus on learning? Well, for a truly mature Scrum team it is constantly, at varying levels. That's what makes working on an Agile team fun for me. We’re constan…

It is not about Sprint Zero; Think Sprint-N

There is a good dialogue on the topic of Scrum's Sprint Zero going on at  If you follow the group you will surely learn something about Agility.  It will just seep into your pores.  Go right ahead - click the link and join up... I'll wait here.

The "raging" debate in the Scrum world for years is - should a Scrum team have a Sprint Zero?  A sprint in which they get setup for doing real work.  A sprint for installing all that infrastructure (DB, Version Control System, App Server, build a few [sarcasm] frameworks). [Hint: when a developer says they just need to build a framework - it is geek-code for I don't have any idea how to use The Google to find a tool to do that job - so I will have to forge my own special handmade tool - check back with me after I reinvent the wheel.]

I think perhaps the wise and wonderful man behind the curtain - Ron Jeffries - captures the best thinking on the topic:

"I do, however, object to calling …

The Ultimate Wallboard Innovation

Some years ago Atlassian ran a contest to find the Ultimate Wallboard.  The winner Vodafone's board was awesome.  There are other nice boards there - if you are in need of inspiration to improve your task board.

Ole Højriis Kristensen from the Vodafone Web Team in Denmark was voted the Ultimate Wallboard winner in Dec. 2010. An interview with Ole on the creation of their wallboard.

It uses RFID to track the task on the board and projects on the board real time graphs of work in process and burn up rates.  This allows them to integrate with team members in remote locations.  Yet they do not lose the tactile sense, nor the spatial processing that the vision center of the brain do so effortlessly for us.

While I'm expecting nice online version of wall boards to keep improving, I don't believe there is a better way to learn Scrum than with a physical low-fidelity wallboard.

We don't learn to do arithmetic using a calculator.  No, one starts with simple addition and by th…

Have you written a Manifesto lately?

What is it lately - everyone wants to get into the Manifesto authorship racket.  When I was growing up - only commies and the unibomber wrote manifestos.

Well after taking a stroll through the internet, there are quite a few nice manifestos out there.  Here are a few that I subscribe to...

The Agile Manifesto - four comparative value statements and 12 principles for how to build better software.  With an industry failure rate of 72% boy do we need a manifesto!

The ScrumMaster Manifesto - because this is a group of people that are downtrodden every day.  Sitting in a seat for 2 days straight without nodding off is no bais for a system of government - to paraphrase Dennis - come see the violence inherent in the system.

The Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship - because we need the bar raised.

The Mother [bleep] ing Manifesto for Programming Mother [bleep] ers - because sometime a four letter word says more than a well crafted phrase.

The MoreAgile Manifesto... because incremental improv…

A trick for motivating people

If you're task is to motivate people - you may be surprised that you will fail very often. Invert your thinking.  Figure out, how do you not demotivate people?  It is easier to not demotivate people than to motivate them.  Here are a few ideas from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.

Don't first sell people on a vision.  Confront the reality (the facts).Don't decide first and then appear to discuss.  Have a true dialogue, then decide.Don't make progress toward the goal invisible.  Show progress, make it obvious.

Related posts:
my notes on Dan Pink's book Drive!
see Sinek TED Talk video in Be or Be Not; there is no Do in Agile

A Timeline of Digital Storage Media

It is a well know fact that humans are relatives of the packrat. We love to store stuff - useless stuff away for a later time. Therefore we need bigger storage lockers, and more storage lockers. We need 30,000 sq-ft homes with basements the size of a high school gym. We need climate controlled storage lockers - off site, but still within 5 miles of home.

The same is true for our digital lives. Who still has the code for the first program they wrote for the x86 chip set? Now we have more storage on our key ring than was in the corporate data center of 1984 (I am Big Brother).

The History of Digital Storage [INFOGRAPHIC]

My how time flys! The rate at which data storage capability increases is exponential. But is it limited?

See Also:
51 Most Popular Tech Gadgets through the Years

Why I use Flip Charts not PPT Slides

Want to retain something you just heard - draw a doodle.
Want to engage learners - get them active.
Want to teach someone a skill - have them teach you.
Want to change some behavior - make it fun.
In all of these techniques the trick is to invert the traditional training paradigm.  The classroom was created to process children with unique talents into factory workers willing to follow directions of an authority.
Doodlers, unite! Sunni Brown on

Read Sharon Bowman's 'Training from the BACK of the Room!'.

Don't think you can doodle - come out of the closet with these techniques from Dan Roam 'Back of the Napkin'.

Maybe it all comes down to improvement, and the need to iterate - to recreate to improve.

One can not doodle on the power-point slide one the screen. One can not quickly annotate a burndown chart in that spreadsheet (a learning moment). One can not give the marker to a participant and have them draw a diagram on your slide deck. You do not get the…

How Happy Are You?

The (USA) founding fathers declared that the pursuit of happiness was a right of the people.  So do you have a right to be happy at work?  No.  But you may pursue happiness there as well as anywhere.  And you may wonder if happiness at work will be more productive.  There is not yet enough study in this regard, and the studies of 19th C. work methods like the Hawthorne Studies might not be generalizable to the modern knowledge workers.

The Surprising Myths About Happiness at Work (  A body of research has found that a happy workforce doesn't necessarily equate to a productive one.The Research We’ve Ignored About Happiness at Work (
The Science of Happiness in depth report by Scientific American.

The Harvard Life study of Happiness 75 years of it.

Learn the latest psychology behind why it's hard to be happy, and take the quiz to learn how your contentment compares to that in other cultures.

"Happiness varies not only from one person to the next but also from …

Change is easier with FUN!

OK - I've got to remember to bring the FUN. That's what empowers changing behaviors. Not Power-Points, not mission statements, not a list of 10 things you don't know, not a study done at Stanford. It's pure Fun!
100 Things You Should Know About People: #13 — Want To Change a Habit? Use Fun, Surprise, and a Crowd | What Makes Them Click:

The Dancing Traffic Light

What belongs on the Task Board?

I wonder about these questions a lot - what types of task belong on the task board?  Does every task have to belong to a Story?  Are some tasks just too small?  Are some tasks too obvious?  Obviously some task are too larger, but when should it be decomposed?  How will we know a task is too large?

I answer these questions with a question.  What about a task board motivates us to get work done?  The answer is: T.A.S.K.S. to DONE!

Inherent in the acronym TASKS is the point of all tasks, to get to done.  That is the measure of if the task is the right size.  Does it motivate us to get the work done?  (see notes on Dan Pink's book: Drive - The surprising Truth about what motivates us) If we are forgetting to do some class of task then putting it on the board will help us remember.  If we think some small task is being done by someone else, then putting it on the board will validate that someone else is actually doing it.  If a task is obvious, then putting it on the board will take vi…

Thinking about company culture

What does a company culture (wikipedia's definition) tell you about their Agility?

When I think of culture and models to describe these very complex human dynamics I think of the song "Hair Styles and Attitudes" by Timbuk 3.  In this song they sing of how scientist have categorized our attitudes into 3 basic types (a model of attitudes).  This is the Three Stooges model of attitude.  I liked this model so much that I created a slide show of my company's people as a prelude to a project retrospective.  This project had a clash with the client culture.  The project ended, but I'd have to say it didn't end pretty.  It did not end in a win-win situation.

Slide show of Hair Styles and Attitudes

Would some coaching from Lysaa Adkins on team conflict have save the contract?  Boy, I wish we would have know about it and tried.

Navigating Conflict on Agile Teams: Why Resolving it Won't Work

One of the best blogs on the topic is Michael Sahota's Agile Culture Se…

The 25 Smartest Things Steve Jobs Ever Said

By Morgan Housel on The Motley Fool [Reposted without permission - hey I'm an Apple Fan Boy - sue me.]

Steve Jobs and I quote:

25. "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed saying we've done something wonderful ... that matters to me."

24. "I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list ... That didn't look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That's what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds."

23. "In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's inte…

What are the Principles?

The agile reboot is underway... the company says it is using "Agile" yet there is no methodology/process/framework that defines "Agile" is there.  So it is not a very valid statement to say we do Agile.  Agile is a philosophy - defined by 4 comparative value statements and 12 principles.  So the top-dog rightly focuses the company on one well defined Agile process - Scrum.  Great move for a change initiative.  Focus is going to be important.  Now we need to discriminate the change - what is it that we want to quit doing and what do we wish to start doing?  We must label these things.

Typically it is easy - one applies the Waterfall label to the old and the Agile or Lean label or more specifically Scrum/XP or Kanban to the new.  That has worked for me in the past very well.  But what to do when it doesn't work?  What to do, if the company has brainwashed itself into thinking it is practicing Agile.

I must resist the Stockholm syndrome. That culture of just get i…

Another Info-Cooler bites the dust.

Built another Scrum task board today for a team.  I first described it on the whiteboard, and a bit about how it worked, how we could choose vertical story and status columns or horizontal - gave them the choice.  We could start with the simplest thing that might work - 3 states (ToDo, In process, Done) and add states if needed (another choice). 

I gave my standard disclaimer - the first version was going to be designed to be thrown away - so bad that they would have to re-do it to make it better.  That's a trick I've learned to sell them ownership of their board.  After a few mock examples on the whiteboard they were getting restless and wanted action.  They bought it.  Sold!

After 6 flip charts got pasted to the wall (3 h. x 2 v.) and a bit of labels and lines - we ran some examples of what it might look like with Story stickies and Task stickies.  Then we played a simulation standup for a few simulated days.  The simulation worked wonderfully.  They got into the…