My #CoreProtocol Check-in

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading up on the Core Protocols over the last few months. They have honestly intrigued me. If you haven’t read the Core Protocols and are interested, I would suggest starting with the Core Commitment and then reading the Core Protocols. You can find the Core Commitment here.

Analysis

There are some great guidelines and ideas within the Core Protocols. But while I find the Core Protocols interesting, I must admit that the I found the structure to be somewhat restrictive. After thinking about it for a while, I think my concerns fall into two general categories.

1) I see the application of the Core Protocols to be more for broken teams that are severely challenged. I don’t believe I would get as much value when I have a team that already has worked together and has trust. I could see the use of the Core Protocols if you have a severely culturally diverse team and are looking for a common set of guidelines that everyone can follow and refer to.

2) For a long time the check-in and check-out protocols and their use troubled me. I couldn’t place my finger on why. Then I realized that what I was struggling with is that the protocols seemed to put the individual and the individual’s emotions above the  team and team mates. (and possibly the client)

For Example:

1) On Check-in I can check in a state that I am sad, glad, mad, or afraid. (Or I can pass) These emotions can be about team mates, clients, or anything in general. If it involves a person, my first thought is whether they have discussed the issue with the other person first. If they haven’t, bringing it up in Check-in only provides safety for the reporting individual. For the other individuals and the psyche of the project? Not so much. Having these check-ins could have some adverse effects that could and should have been handled by one on one conversations.

2) On team mates Check-ins I can’t ask questions or refer to it in my check-ins. Once again this may benefit the reporting individual, but it limits the benefit that the team can get based on interactions and questioning between team members during check-in meetings. I absolutely love the quick discussions that happen during stand-ups that identify common issues between individuals and then create a plan of attack. The efficiency and team work is very energizing.

3) Anybody can check out at any time and physically leave discussions at any time. This can be even at the detriment of the team and the discussion at hand. You can imagine a current discussion about a key factor and perhaps a key architect check outs. So what happens now? We can’t even ask him/her why she has checked out or encourage them to return. Based on the person and the situation, the act of checking out may have created a material issue for the project. (depending when the person decides to check back in) The protocol of Check-out is different from Pass as you physically leave the room, with Pass you are still in the room but have declined to interact.

Summary

Like most methods in Agile I know there are some situations, clients, and team that the Core Protocols would probably deliver value.

I think my concerns come from a personal style preference. I would prefer my teams to strive to have individual conversations first when they have issues and to try to place the team’s goals above their own at all times. Perhaps some modification to the protocols would assist this if people needed to seek the team’s permission first before passing or checking out. I’m not sure if this would be acceptable to the Core Protocols.

At the end of the day, I feel these Protocols will probably increase one way communication, but at the expense of two-way communication. And that is where I think the magic happens. I think effort should instead be spent trying to build trust and make people comfortable to maximize the amount of two-way communication instead of implementing a structure that limits two-way communication.

#SDEC12 Conference Review #Agile

Well another Software Development and Evolution conference has come and gone. (You’ve always wondered what SDEC stood for didn’t you?) It was a lot of work and effort to make it all happen, but in the end it was very enjoyable. I learned an immense amount and cant’t wait until next year.

My Highlights

      • The Joe Justice/Wikispeed Keynote on day 1 was entertaining and inspiring. If you aren’t familiar with the Joe Justice and Wikispeed story, I highly recommend you doing a search on YouTube or Google. Inspirational stuff on what can be accomplished when you ask why not? WikiSpeed
      • The Luke Hohmann/Innovation Games keynote on day 2 was energizing. I have been a fan of Innovation Games for a long time and it was energizing to hear Luke speak and provide the context on how and why Innovation Games are successful. InnovationGames
      • Adam Yuret @AdamYuret brought Lean Coffee to SDEC12. It was a highlight of mine to attend his session on Lean Coffee and learn how we can have our own Lean Coffee discussions. Although I must admit, I would prefer an afternoon coffee instead of an early morning one.
      • Chris Dagenais @MDChris had a couple of engaging and informative sessions on team building and peer feedback. Great sessions and audience was very engaged and interactive.
      • Lightning Talks made their first appearance at SDEC and were very well attended. There were great talks and tons of practical information compressed in 5 minute chunks.
      • Best presentation I attended was presented by Mark Kulchycki and Alyson Teterenko of Manitoba Hydro International. It was a real life tale from the trenches on how their team evolved and incorporated Agile principles into their PSCAD product development team. Awesome presentation, pragmatic approaches that everyone can use.
      • My personal highlight of the conference was the Innovation Games workshop with Luke Hohmann after the conference. It was an excellent session where Luke not only covered the Innovation Games themselves, but also the science and psychology of the games and the art of facilitation. Probably learned more in one day than I have for a long time.
      • I loved presenting my Agile Data Warehouse talk. I’m hopeful that I can have a follow-up presentation at SDEC13 that illustrates more how we used Innovation Games and show the actual models that were created.
      • It was great being able to just talk and share with everyone at the conference on what worked for them and what people are still struggling with.

Summary

It was a great conference with over 200 attendees. This was a new record for SDEC and caused us to be flexible to modify the lunch process for Day 2 to be more efficient. 🙂

I can’t wait for next year. We are gathering the feedback forms and listening to our Advisory council to assure the content and structure is even better next year! Thanks for your support and see you at SDEC13!

Top 3 #teachers that shaped me #UofW #RiverEast @mbteachers

As my kids go back to school and I meet their great teachers, I thought about the three teachers that were a profound impact on my life. (both professionally and personally) I saw a video by Neil DeGrasse Tyson that mentioned that if you ask people how many teachers impacted their life, they would probably think of two or three immediately. It seems I’m no different. You can watch his inspirational video here.

When I started to think about the great teachers and what they taught me, it turned out that a lot of the lessons were applicable to teams.

This post is dedicated to those teachers that ‘changed me in fundamental ways’. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson says: “If you can light that flame in the student, that is half the work”

In chronological order:

Grade 10 – Mr. Kasian – River East Collegiate

Grade 10 was a challenging time for me like other students. First year in high school and I was trying to figure out where I fit in. Mr Kasian was my Mathematics and Computer Science teacher. It is absolutely no coincidence that my career is now in Software Development. Mr. Kasian employed charisma, humour, and passion in all of his lessons. Most importantly though, he had a true passion for the subject and his students. I remember that Mr. Kasian was the first teacher I felt truly cared that I understood what he was teaching. Due to his efforts I made the Honour list for the first time and never left it after.

“Before I care about what you know, I need to know that you care”

I also believed I also found my positive attitude in that Grade 10 Mathematics class.

I still remember Mr. Kasian teaching us the three ways of long division. I asked him why we couldn’t just learn the best way and forget the other two. I remember his response as if it was yesterday. “Because you wouldn’t appreciate it”. That answer that reinforces a work ethic still resounds with me today.

Lesson: Passion and caring are the foundation to success and successful teams. Humour also doesn’t hurt. This all comes down to your attitude. You attitude can make you successful.

Grade 12 – Mr. Dentry – River East Collegiate

Many people who had Mr. Dentry might be picking up their jaws off the floor now. Mr. Dentry was a tough but fair teacher who taught Physics and did not dumb down the lessons. He was traditional. Some of his students failed and students had to put in extra work to pass. But he prepared us for the future. He thought beyond getting people just to pass his class. His perspective was about preparing us for university. He got us thinking about what we would be doing after his class. He understood that people need a challenge to grow.

He gave people zeros. And that was the best lesson some of us ever had. He taught us about consequences and how to apply ourselves when challenged.

But you know what I remembered most about Mr. Dentry? I remember many people failing tests, but at the end of the year I remember almost every single one of us improving and passing. His focus was on challenging us and helping us meet that challenge. Even if that wasn’t the easiest path.

Lesson: Context and Consequences. Mr Dentry gave us the context of where we were and what we needed to achieve if we wanted to be successful after Grade 12. He also clearly, I mean vividly, defined consequences if we didn’t study and apply ourselves. He also showed me how you work with teammates to help them grow.

University – Professor Peterkin – University of Winnipeg

After the lessons of high school and early university, I was getting great marks and was scheduled to graduate quite handily. Then I got Professor Peterkin in my thesis course and he provided a different lesson. He showed that isn’t good enough that you are bright and can solve problems and create awesome code. It is important to be professional in all aspects of how you present yourself and communicate. That is a critical requirement. I handed in my first assignment and got a 61%. 61%?? I was on the honour role and this was my major! All the marks deducted were for what I thought was nitpicking:

  • small grammar errors
  • capitalization errors
  • not leaving a space after commas and leaving two spaces between words.

Seriously? But the lesson was that just knowing the answer wasn’t success. It was knowing the answer and being able to present it completely and professionally.I keep thinking back to how I was complimented at my first job on how I communicated and how my written, presentation, and communication skills were of high quality. I have Professor Peterkin to thank for that.

“The English language is the most important language any Computer Scientist knows”

Lesson: Professionalism and attention to detail are as important as competency. They are the way people perceive you and your work.

Summary

Passion, Caring, Great Attitude, Context, Professionalism, and Attention to Detail. That is what I really got from those great teachers and the Math, Physics, and Project course. And that wasn’t even on the curriculum.

I hope my children have teachers as impactful as I have had.

Special Mention

I had heard Mr Peniuk passed away some years ago. I  remember feeling sad that I never had a chance to tell Mr. Peniuk how good a teacher he was. Mr Peniuk was my Grade 11 and 12 Chemistry teacher. Like Mr. Kasian, I felt Mr Peniuk truly cared about us. I also remember getting my first 100% on a test in Grade 11 in his class. I was starting to excel in Grade 11 and Mr Peniuk really engaged me in his class. He encouraged me as I worked on problems and when I got that first 100%, I remember feeling that I could learn anything, Mr Peniuk’s class gave me confidence that carried me through my career.

In praise of #PracticingAgilists and prevention of #PaperAgilists

I wonder if the time is right to introduce an Agile certification with a requirement for recurring Agile project work. (In whatever role is appropriate) All of the Agile certifications I have seen evaluate whether you understand the Agile concepts, but I have not seen a certification that requires Agile project work. Some of the books I have found really valuable recently are written with stories from the trenches that you can relate to and provide lessons learned that you can apply immediately. Two of the more recent ones that I highly recommend are:

Beautiful Teams

The Nimble Elephant

The other side of the coin

But I have also read my share of articles and books that are quite abstract and don’t provide much in the way of exactly how you implement the concepts that they are presenting. I’m sure you have seen these that propose some of the following:

  • Don’t estimate or budget at all
  • Don’t assign people to more than one project at a time
  • Don’t create a plan at all

I agree with the ideas behind these concepts, but these abstract concepts do not reflect reality for 90% of us in the trenches.

I have heard the term ‘Paper Architects’ to refer to architects that are quite removed from technology and have not experienced the real project give-and-take, collaboration, personal interactions and issues, negotiation and confrontation, and compromise for quite a while in a project setting.  The discussion is that these ‘Paper Architects’ have grown out of touch with the technology, possible solutions, and the clients during this time. I wonder if we need to propose a certification that requires real world project experience so we don’t have Paper Agilists?

The Details

This project experience that I speak of would be more that just Agile Coaching. Although Agile Coaching is important and has its place, I think the real value comes from team members that are part of an Agile project from inception through development and through multiple major releases. That is where the rubber really hits the road and significant work is required to take Agile concepts and customize them so that you satisfy all the project stakeholders and provide value to each and every one of them. Ideally these professionals would be on the project team from the proposal phase right through post implementation and Application Maintenance.

I hate to build on the old Scrum joke, but while Agile Coaches are interested in the projects, the team members are truly committed. And I don’t mean to imply that Agile Coaches are aloof and are not concerned about the outcome of the project. I believe they have the utmost integrity in how they are doing their job, but there is more of a commitment when you are an employee that will be staying in that environment long-term and personally having to live with the ramifications of the decisions that were made. 

I truly believe that professionals are somewhat limited in the value they bring clients if they are only writing books or articles or just being an Agile Coach rather than participating on Agile projects on a regular basis.  

I propose a sabbatical approach like we see in the universities. Usually professors take a year leave of absence to do research and write a book and then they return to their professorial duties. I think we need to do the same. Aside from the standards tests that would ensure you know the Agile and Lean concepts, I propose that 3 out of 5 years need to be spent on an Agile projects as a card-carrying team member. I chose the five-year period to provide flexibility to balance projects with coaching and book and article writing.

Who would you rather join your team for a critical project? Some one who has recent project experience or someone who hasn’t?

Summary

In fact, the word ‘Agile’ comes from the Latin ‘Agere’ which means ‘to do’.

Can you truly be Agile if you aren’t ‘doing’ anymore?

#Agile #baseball coaching

My lack of blogs recently can be directly attributed to my coaching my son’s baseball team. It is no small amount of time and effort to coaching a team of ten boys, all around seven years old. But like all forms of coaching, it is one of the most rewarding things I have done in recent memory. I find this quite similar to the pure joy and satisfaction I feel by being part of a team. Coaching my son’s team did leave me with some interesting observations on coaching project and baseball teams.

Here are the few things I’ve noticed…

1) Just like project teams, sports teams are a collection of individuals at the start. We had a leg up on most teams as half the team knew each other from school. But I have really noticed that near the end of the year, the entire team has really grown to care about their teammates. This has resulted in the team encouraging each other on and offering to help each other whenever possible. I think about how we encouraged this and I believe it was helped by the coaches really caring that every person enjoyed their time and got better throughout the year.

I do believe we are now a team, and I remember when I noticed that. I remember that there was one pop out that my son was upset about that ended the inning. Running in there were two boys that told my son Matthew that it was a good hit and that he will get a hit next time.

That was cool. Now we have the team caring about each other and coaching each other. I think for the team to be successful, there can’t be just coaches and players. The players have to become coaches as well…

2) The incredible effect that coaches have on individuals. I’m sure this is related to the age of the team, but I have noticed that on almost every team that the team takes on the persona of the coach. Now sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes not so good. It did cause me to reflect on how I conduct myself with my project teams and ensure that I am abiding by the Prime Directive at all times. Sometimes during moments of frustration we can show more of our emotions, but it is good to remember that this can be modeled by team members in the future.

3) I noticed how much we complement good plays in sport but not at work. One thing I tried to emphasize with the players is that it isn’t the outcome of the play that matters, it is the hustle and effort. After every play I complimented my players as to their hustle. Now after every play, usually one of the kids will ask if that was good hustle. 🙂

One type of compliment has now turned into an increased work ethic for the team. This probably has had more impact due to the age of the boys, but it made me think about how little we compliment team mates at work and what the results would be if we did. Usually we just complain when something isn’t analyzed well or tested well. But do we take the time to compliment our team mates when these things are done well? Or do we just assume that is the way it should always be done?

4) Random snacks. Nothing builds excitements and energy like a random gift of treats. The boys still talk about the freezies that the coaches brought on the really hot day.

I never thought that coaching would reinforce how I can be a better coach and team-mate at work.

Final Thoughts

I have thought that in coaching at work and on baseball teams that the most important item was professionalism or sportsmanship. How the team reacts to adversity and good fortune tells a lot about their individual and team character. I think coaches can influence others by helping to build these skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Baseball skills come and go, sportsmanship will last their entire lifetime. I notice the lack of sportsmanship before anything else when I observe a new team. 

I believe you can’t be a great team or a great coach without sportsmanship and respect for the game. I think a good percentage of the coaching I do is projecting this behaviour in the hope that it will take hold like the ‘hustle’ coaching.

On the day after Father’s day, thanks to my father coaches that helped to reinforce these qualities in me. Larry Bunio and Robert Turner were great coaches who got their message through and cared about the right things.

Now its time to hopefully continue that tradition.