Announcing the launch of a new alliance

May 18, 2020 3:44 pm

Today I am excited and proud to launch a new alliance* in the agile software development field: The SELF-CARE Alliance (Sustaining Everyone Longing For – Community of Agile RespitE, [or make your own acronym])

Any good alliance needs a few things: membership qualifications, a certification program, an FAQ, a badge / logo / seal, and a manifesto – what am I forgetting?

Anyway, starting from the back, going in random order:

The manifesto: You are agile enough! That’s it. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. No tensions, dualities, values, or any of that. Enough said.

Membership qualification: You become a member by realizing that you have enough knowledge, enough skills, enough training, enough certificates, enough letters behind your name on LinkedIn, enough pages in your resume, enough experience, enough confidence, enough self-control, enough capability to connect and help where needed. Simply put – you are enough, just the way you are.

The certification program: No expensive classes, no gatekeepers, no bar of excellence to meet, no travel to take, no exam to pass, no committee to convince, no new version of a framework to master, no membership dues, no renewal fees, no nothing. You just decide that you have had enough, and declare yourself an AC-e – “Agile Certified – enough”. That’s it. The final letters for putting after your name on your LinkedIn profile.

The FAQ:

Why?

Because you’re enough. You don’t need to chase “more”. It’s all good. You’ve GOT this.

Do you have a theme song?

Yes! Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” – not applied to some imaginary “other”, but to yourself.

Do you have a badge I can put on my website, resume, etc.?

You bet:

Is there more?

No. That’s enough.

* It’s a pretty small alliance right now, with a membership of one (the author). I wrote this mostly as a reminder to myself. Maybe it’s helpful to you as well.

Freedom, Civilization and Leadership

April 2, 2020 6:51 am

I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep again. Thoughts and ideas were swirling in my head, so I wrote them down. I’m not looking for debate. #Leadership #CallToThink #CallToLead #CallToListen

Imagine, just for a moment, that you are free. You have no rent to pay, no mortgage to cover. You don’t need a car or to pay for the insurance. You don’t need to worry about going bankrupt should you get sick or injured by accident. You can meet your needs for essential food by walking to a grocery store near you. You have shelter, water, energy and waste services. You have freedom to choose what you want to do every minute of your waking hours. What would you do with that freedom?

Now, think about how close to that imagined picture we are right now, in the global pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19. Everyone is affected in some way, but each one differently. People in essential jobs, connected to basic human needs, are working harder than ever. People who work in jobs not directly connected to basic human needs are sheltering in place and physically distancing themselves from others. Since so many people now work on things not connected to basic human needs, society has come to a severe slowdown. The lifeblood we traditionally use to make society work – money – has stopped flowing easily. It’s as if the world has a giant blood clot in its main artery. Money no longer works well to support our civilization.

Road and air traffic have slowed down dramatically. As a result, our natural environment is becoming healthier. There is better air quality and less carbon dioxide being emitted. Maybe global warming is even slowing down for a bit – what if we could use this global “pause” for something really, really useful?

It seems to be a great time for us to collectively examine what we really need and what we want to do for the future of our civilization. When the current, acute, global health scare is over, do we go back to our old ways – restarting the engine that is creating a slow, imperceptible (for now) global disruption on a much bigger scale than this invisible virus? Could we redesign civilization to be sustainable to the point where we balance our consumption of natural resources with what the living planet can produce (see https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33133712)? Is this a time to talk about slowing population growth, to rethink the purpose of our economic systems, to fully internalize the interconnectedness of all living systems, to reshape or evolve the structures our societies have built with little conscious thought?

If your own answer to those questions is yes, how do you want those conversations to go? Where is the forum for having those conversations? How do you involve 7 Billion people in it? Or 230 million? Or 5 million?

Maybe this is not a conversation for everyone, but for people in leadership positions.

Maybe we haven’t had any real leadership capable of thinking in these ways since our oldest democracies were established.

Maybe we’ve all been too busy, chasing money, status and the acquisition of material things.

Maybe this is a time to develop extraordinary leadership capabilities that span incomprehensible complexities and help to find simple new rules we can start living by.

Maybe this a time for leaders in government, business and industry to dramatically shift their mindsets and perspective from squabbling and competing over money, market share, morality, religion and taxation to stepping into global consciousness and leadership to show us a new way, a new vision, and ways for us to move there?

Maybe this is the time for many to dive into developing their own leadership capabilities.

Is it time for you and me as well?

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic – what’s happening on a global scale

March 20, 2020 8:59 pm

As someone who works with teams and individuals on changing how they approach software development, I recently thought back to a model that originally came from the family therapist Virginia Satir. She used the model to illustrate how humans cope with change, and much has been written about it before. A write-up that’s often used in the Agile Software Development community is https://stevenmsmith.com/ar-satir-change-model/

In addition, a very detailed description is published at http://www.satirworkshops.com/workshops/balancing-act/satir-change-model/

Sadly, the images in that article don’t really show up in context, so I decided to re-create them and produce them in somewhat higher resolution – and I will use those re-creations here.

Normally the model is used to talk about how individual people react to change. It starts with a “Late Status Quo”, where our performance in whatever domain is hovering around a certain level:

This phase may last a while:

At some point, a change of some sort happens, a “Foreign Element” shows up. That could be an unusual new idea, a new person joining a team, or a new demand placed upon an employee:

The normal result from the introduction of this Foreign Element is that our our performance gets thrown into chaos:

How long the chaos will last is unknown.

While I’m writing this, the globe we live on is swept up in a pandemic of a viral infection outbreak called Covid-19. The viral infection has essentially caused the psyche of the entire population on earth to plunge into the “Chaos” phase all at once, and all over the planet.

People are naturally afraid of many things in this phase (contracting the invisible virus through non-symptomatic carriers, having to shelter in place at home, losing income, being unable to pay bills, etc.) Many have no way of working while the pandemic persists.

Others work in the “knowledge” domain, and are being instructed to conduct their business from home via the Internet, essentially having to become remote workers overnight. For those people, the foreign element is not only related to fears, but also to having to develop new skills and social “online” practices in a hurry. This exacerbates the feeling of chaos and mixes in a great deal of anxiety.

What is needed to get out of the chaos is a “Transforming idea”, an insight into how the new situation can be tackled, or a new skill that can be learned to make one feel more competent and confident:

Once this Transforming Idea exists, we move into the phase of “Integration and practice”, where our performance still oscillates wildly as we try on the new idea, or build up new skills:

With repetition and repeated practice, we slowly arrive at a “New Status Quo”, where our level of performance is (hopefully) above what it was before, since we are now more capable, and we experience natural oscillation around a new “normal”:

In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the transforming ideas to deal with the global outbreak is “social distancing” (more appropriate would be to call it “physical distancing”), where people avoid physical contact and close proximity to others to prevent transmission of the virus in the population.

Unfortunately that idea triggers additional chaos for those people who are being asked to become remote workers “over night” because they mostly work in intellectual endeavors. They are now asked to learn how to function well in an environment that is mostly unfamiliar to them, where social norms are not fully established, and new habits are difficult to form. This has given rise to many, many tips and articles being published online, laying out a plethora of Transforming Ideas to choose from, inviting people to join free sessions to learn new skills in a hurry, and all kinds of real-world training (and conferences) moving online. All of that is offered with the best of intentions – and without it we’d be much poorer off in terms of having Transforming Ideas available.

But as the Satir change model shows, integration and practice will take time. Enlightened companies and managers will take that into account and help their employees calm the fear and anxiety that is swirling all around. One key component to helping everyone work through the current situation is to realize that it is completely normal for people to react this way, and to reassure them that there is patience and a supportive stance that they can rely upon to calm some of the chaos.

A map of ideas, concepts and skills that help when guiding Agile teams

May 14, 2018 9:28 am

[This is a re-post from LinkedIn]

What does it take to become a guide for Agile teams? My own experience leads me to believe that exposure to a lot of different thinking helps, as well as learning some specific skills. This is an attempt at starting a kind of map or atlas to the world of useful skills for Agile guides. If you’ve seen other guides similar to this, I’d appreciate a comment on this post with pointers to your source.

Tactical

Teams and people

  • “Hands-on” experience with teams
  • Team formation and dynamics (Tuckman model, Satir change curve)
  • People management and engagement (Weinberg, Lichty/Mantle)
  • What motivates people (Pink)
  • Personality type models (Myers-Briggs, DISC)
  • How to launch teams well (Larsen/Nies, III)
  • Participatory decision making theory and skills (Kaner)
  • Collaboration theory and skills, meeting management (Tabaka)
  • Facilitation techniques and skills (Kerth)
  • Congruence in interactions (Weinberg)
  • Open Space Technology (Owen)

Leadership

  • Coaching skills (Adkins)
  • Teaching methods and skills (Presentation, workshops, games, simulations)
  • Learning modes (Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic, etc.)
  • “Sales” skills (Pink)
  • Communication models and skills (Rianoshek/Connelly)
  • Non-violent communication theory and skills (Rosenberg)

Thinking and problem solving

  • Systems thinking (Deming, Meadows)
  • Complexity theory and models (Snowden)
  • Human Systems Dynamics (Holladay/Eoyang)

Integration

  • Innovation context conditions (Denning)
  • Organization models and theory
  • Psychology and process of change knowledge (Satir)

Each of the above is of course a deep and wide subject. No one person can ever cover all of them at any significant depth. But maybe that’s not necessary. Maybe just having been exposed to all of the above ideas, if even by reading a single book on each will expand your appreciation for how miraculous it is that people can accomplish work together in difficult situations, under pressure, uncertainty, changing circumstances and unclear focus. Just being aware of all this should help in becoming a good guide for the team you serve.

Agile may be the single idea (perhaps exemplifying “when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” or “an idea is a most dangerous thing, if you only have one”) that you start with, but it will quickly lead you to discover a rich ocean of other “stuff” you can immerse yourself in.

One hard part in this is finding time to dip your toes in. A little weekend reading will do wonders. So will attending free webinars, if you can find them. Also, following the right people on Twitter to point you to summary blog posts, YouTube videos or book reviews. Taking good notes along the way is important. Or re-reading / re-watching to cement what you learned.

The hardest part is to keep all of the above in mind when you’re in the “heat of the moment”. How do you arrive at some “simple rules” for yourself in light of all this complex and rich material? How do you “integrate” all this information into your mode of being and operating?