The power of silence

In this post i am going to focus on a topic which is hard to maintain and helps me often in different situations: silence. I see you asking “How is silence helping you? It’s often awkward and not helping to get into action! Why should we sit around without coming up with a plan?” Be assured, we will cover those feelings too :)! I read about the gap in the conversations often. Lately in the Coaching Habit. Lets dive in and see what can be found in the big  black nothing!

Silence for yourself

Let’s take at first a look where every good leadership starts: you. Whenever you let a gap in the words spoken, you can be shure that you got the chance to think about new ideas on a topic. Often the first ideas are good. Second and third ideas sometimes are amazing. So leave the chance of a chance for great ideas! On the other hand you get the opportunity to think about how to involve the others better. How can i help them better? How can i get them better into seeing my point of view? How can i get them to see the whole picture? How can i see their stance more clear?

Next great thing of a small piece of no words is the chance to get over a bad feeling. Whenever you have a feeling, be assured, that someone will see it or feel it too. Ok, most guys tend to push this touchy-feely thing away as fast as a ray of light. But: having a feeling and getting over it, before exploding, helps you to be fair and calm. That’s were we find another small gem: the time to reflect. Whenever you have time to reflect, you can get into a better understanding of the situation, your counterparts and yourself.

The last soft topic on your side is the feelings in you and the room. Sometimes there is a little part not fitting. There is a small thing which creates an odd perception in you. You see the things and a small voice in the background tells you “hey, this isn’t fitting overall”. Take the time to find out what it is. Hold the feeling in the room. Try not to get fast over it. Hold it in your body and find out where it sits, what it is about and what it is telling you! And with this last note on you, we can step over to the next part: the others!

Silence for the others

We’ve seen how challenging it can be to be silent for yourself. Let’s have a wider look at something crucial in leadership: the others. Whenever you let others the time to think or feel what is going on, you open the possibility of further development. You let them find out what the challenge is all about. You give them the chance to figure out things, to come up with own thoughts and solve the  problem(s) on their own. This little gem is making a crucial difference in leading and in relationships.

Even if it is hard to remain silent, you’re maybe used to always find a good or great solution fast, it is worth on multiple layers. If you just take over control, you give the others the signal to lean back and see with what solution you will come up. Sometimes this is becoming a real vicious circle: nobody is used to think in solutions, cause you will step in and “rescue” everybody. For the lazy ones this is a good feeling, for the eager ones this is a bad feeling. Imagine you want to learn and get further in your carreer. Than there is a boss or leader always making every decision and coming up with solutions, even before the question was ended or talked out loud. The habit of this guy will take your chance away to come up with your own ideas and to make them better over time. You feel not trusted and will be frustrated. I know, this is one of the more negative possible situations. But it’s totally worth thinking about, because every frustrated great guy will sooner or later move on to the next challenges. And the chance to loose a colleague because you couldn’t let space for her development is worth to think about your habits!

Conclusion

My advice for you: play around with the mighty tool of silence. Get out of your habit to jump in and let your advice monster (thanks to Bungay Stanier Michael for this great image) take over the situation! Learn to hold the tension of waiting for the ideas of your colleagues! It’s absolutely worth: it opens space for further and faster development and enriches the possible solutions you have in the most situations.

Book review: The Coaching Habit

Have you ever read a book and thought “that’s simple but genius”? No? Than you should read The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. If your answer is “yes”, it’s also highly recommended. Why am i so convinced by this book? The easy answer: the subtitle is “Say less, Ask more & Change the Way You Lead Forever” and it was really like this for me. The book itself is really entertaining to read. Short and concise chapters make it simple to read in a few hours and find the things later fast. There are several genius concepts in it, which make remembering them unbelievable easy. Best example is the advice monster. Whenever somebody comes to you and asks a question, most of us are used to give an advice. Often there isn’t even a question necessary to wake up this cute fellow which hinders real growth. Whenever the advice monster starts to take over control, your counterpart is not longer trying to find a solution herself. By this they will not develop further and get used to have their problems solved by someone else. You see where this is going: you break their learning experience and even make others stop thinking. And we don’t need to talk about the bad things caused this, right?

The book is divided into short chapters which either are highlighting a question or some extra knowledge about habits, breaking them and introducing new ones. Let’s have a short look on three of the seven concise, world changing questions!

Question #1: What’s on your mind?

Somehow before getting lost in small talk or chitchat you need to kickstart the conversation about the things which drive your counterpart crazy. Therefore this short and easy one is designed to get to the point straight ahead. I feel like every word more on this one would be boring and i am uncomfortable writing so much about it 🙂 so go for it!

Question #2: And what else?

Often the first thing isn’t the only one. And even better: it’s not the true, most important, most hurting point. The elephant is still unadressed! Therefore a second, third or thousandth time asking what there could be is moving the spotlight until everything is said. That’s the justification for this question: finding the things which matter and give them a chance to be solved!

Question #3: What’s the real challenge here for you?

When everything is out of the mouth and on the table, we need to find the most struggling thing. The one which drives the other crazy! Nobody can tell you better which thing it is, than the one who came up with all his problems. Again a good point to realize, that you shouldn’t solve problem number two, three or anything else than number one. And on top you should not solve the problem by advising! Lift your peer to find her own solution. Than everyone learned somthing, feels better and is empowered!

Overall there are seven of those smart questions, which all have their genius reason. They all help you to step up on your leading and your sparring partner to get out at least a bit smarter.

Did you already read the book? Would you read it after this blog post? How do you coach your colleagues? What worked well for you? Leave a comment and let the world know what you think!

As always thanks for reading and have much success in coaching!

Daily Scrum Antipatterns

Let’s have a look on a very central thing in Scrum in my eyes: the Daily Scrum. You can find a section in the Scrum Guide and many other places in the web. Living in the heart of every Sprint and every day of the Sprint, the Daily Scrum is the meeting for the Development Team to plan the next day. As you may read in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master and others are allowed, but they are not allowed to disturb the Daily Scrum. The Development Team decides how it wants to do the actual meeting. The Scrum Master only has to assure, that the meeting takes place, that the team is able to hold the 15 minutes timebox and that no outsider is disturbing. One common myth is, that everybody has to answer the holy three questions. That’s simply not true. The three questions are a good start for new teams to find a way to talk every day about the Sprint Goal. And that is the point where i want to start sharing my experiences and little stories.

Actual Antipatterns

The first thing i want to share is the “forced three questions”. Here the team lead forced the team members to answer the three questions. Without a doubt, the team had no right to improve or change the situation and was not empowered to organize its work as it wanted.

Another one i saw multiple times is the “i’ve done this and that”. The team members didn’t focused on the Sprint Goal. If you have a close look at the Scrum Guide, the three questions, there is always a “meet the Sprint Goal” at the end of them. So team members chatted about phone calls and refactoring a class and fixing this bug. But the Sprint Goal was not focused. And that’s a problem! The team should focus on the Sprint Goal and find a plan to reach it in the Daily Scrum. It is a inspect and adapt meeting, if the first plan got impediments in the way, the team has to adapt and change the plan.

Very close to that is the “hiding what you’re doing beside the Sprint Goal”. There one or multiple team members did things, which had nothing to do with the Sprint Goal and did not tell anybody. This is a violation of the Scrum Values focus, openness and maybe also respect. When someone of the team is not working together with the rest to reach the goals, it is unfocused and maybe also harming the morale of the remaining team and company.

Another thing what can be hidden are the mistakes. So the anti-pattern of the “hiding my mistakes” is harmful cause nobody will learn from them and they will be done again and again. This is a waste and should not be permitted. Whatever brings a team member to hide a mistake should be taken really seriously. If there is a broken culture, than the Scrum Master must have a look at it. It should be fixed as soon as possible to not end up in a situation where nobody is showing his errors and nobody can learn from them. Without being courageous we can’t adapt to the reality!

Talking about the culture i have to admit one pattern i saw multiple times is the “report meeting”. Here everybody is giving his or her report to the boss or the felt next higher tangible person. So if the boss is somehow once not there, than the Scrum Master is the recipient of the habitual report. There are two misconceptions. First is, that you have to tell what you’ve done and present your personal plan to someone. Second is, that the Scrum Master is higher than the team member. The latter shows a misunderstood Scrum interpretation. The Scrum Team is completely equal. The power is partitioned to have someone responsible for every important part in the development of complex products: the team is responsible for the how, the Product Owner for the what and the Scrum Master for the process. They are equal and together they build something great.

Quite similiar is the “chatty boss”. The boss is talking nearly all the time and even exceeding the timebox. He is giving everyone a task and looking for presenting himself. As you read through all the other patterns, there is nothing to add why this is a sign of not working Scrum.

The “forced metric” i saw and heard multiple times. For instance the team lead forced to fill the happiness metric. Without a doubt, if the team wants to fill a metric, that is clearly allowed. And on top it is a good sign for having some healthy habits. It shows, that the team may focus on side goals or true norths like better bug rates or better code quality. Being forced to fill a metric is a sign for a not so good understanding of theself-organising thingy.

Another hard thing i remember in one team was “the silence” or “the elephant in the room”. There were nearly no discussions or a hard atmosphere. Everybody was happy when the meeting was over. At least it felt like a big burden was gone after the Daily Scrum finally was done. That could’ve had several reasons. A new boss nobody liked or a cold conflict n the team were nobody wanted to get in struggle or some other hidden things. Here it is important to find the root cause and to fix it. Sometimes the Scrum Master can do this, sometimes he has to delegate it to HR.

Conclusion

Many misunderstandings of Scrum and the concepts in it can lead to Daily Scrums, which are not so valuable as they could be. Sometimes the Daily Scrum is a good indicator, that something deeper is broken. That could be the culture or the relationships. Than it is important to make this things transparent and to adapt to the reality.

What anti-patterns did you saw in your Daily Scrums? And how did you handled them? Which things helped and went something to the complete wrong direction? Just leave a comment and let me and the world know about your experiences!

Thanks for reading and have a good Daily Scrum :)!

Management 3.0: #5 Happiness Door/Wall

As you may have mentioned i tried and wrote about some of the Management 3.0 practices before. In this blog post i am writing about my experience with the concept of having positive things publicly visible. The practice i tried out next was the Happiness Door or the Happiness Wall.

Happiness what?

You may have heard of the method of switching the focus toward positive things. This could’ve been in private live, like the positive thinking, or in professional live, like with the Kudo Cards. The Happiness Door/Wall aim on the same thing: pushing the focus towards more positivity. They try to get the positive things more into the awareness of the people around by showing them public and in written form. Everyone at your company is allowed to write something positive he or she experienced on a piece of paper and pin it at the Happiness Door. That’s it. Not much more magic here. The magic starts when you engaged enough people to write something down and your colleagues see it often enough and value it. They can take a bit of energy out of the made experiences and load their heart again with positivity. Nothing more and nothing less.

My experiences

Let me be honest at first: i didn’t found a good place in my actual company for “the Wall”. We have rooms in multiple houses and the rooms were flats before. So we have more stairs than expected and it feels really like Hogwarts if you show guys all the rooms the first time. So unfortunately i only found a movable whiteboard in one of our meeting rooms as the first point to start. In one of our company retrospectives (do you hang around once in a while with all your colleagues to inspect and adapt all the processes? No, try it, it really matters!) we filled it with positive things. It was a overwhelming moment, when more and more positive things came up in our minds. It felt great, when even the hard feeling guys brought something good. Another thing i tried was hanging out the testimonials of some of our customers in one room of developers. It was a mixed reaction: some liked it and some came up arguing why to do this and that there is no benefit in it.

Conclusion

So for me there is a absolute plus in doing things like the Happiness Door or Wall: the positivity comes into the halls. Sometimes very slowly and somtimes it is hard to push it further. But it is absolutely worth playing around with such things. I learned, that in some situations you shouldn’t force the positive energy, because it can end in resistance. And that’s a thing you want to avoid. Or maybe in the resistance lies the root cause of some other problems? I will see

What positivity techniques did you tried? Did it worked well? Were there resisting forces? What did you do about them? How did you handle those things? Thanks for reading and leave a comment if you want to connect in one or the other way!

Book review: Eat That Frog!

We all heard the fairy tail of the brothers Grimm in which the girl kisses the frog and he automagically converts into a charming prince. Maybe you liked the story or you did not. That’s not the point for todays book review! The book i am writing about today is Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. I mentioned it earlier in blog posts about virtuous circles and about moving motivators.

A frog – seriously?

Eating a frog! How ugly is this? And there it doesn’t stop! On one of the first pages we are encouraged to eat the biggest frog we can find! And later on we should eat that one as the first one!

The frog is only a metapher for your tasks. How often did you came accross a task you didn’t wanted to do? How often did you procrastinated without getting something productive done? The book helps you figuring out what is important, urgent, valuable and needed. This is done by a very useful set of principles. First and best example is the ugliest frog. Whenever you feel, that you could do something better with your time, go for it. But it also comes up with advices for planning your future and your day. Sometimes there are already well known things like Pareto’s Principle (at least for me it was not new). But they are presented very detailed and from multiple sides. This helps to understand things deeper and reflect more and better. Other things are not so obvious. Being a creative procrastinator was one of these things i never heard before. Its absolutely clear, that you can’t do everything you would like to do in your life. So you need to put things into the background, which are not highest priority. Also you learn how to push yourself into action. Overall there are 21 techniques to recognize and eat the most important frog first and to swallow it as good as you can.

Conclusion

The book Eat That Frog! is written very entertaing. It is easy to read and understand. At the end of each chapter the great tips are summarized again for being accessible later fast. The chapters are atomar, so that you can pick up the book, check out a chapter and try one chapters recommendations. The clear advices are fast and easy implemented. So overall this book is full of easy and brilliant things. Some you may know, some seem too easy, but its good to be reminded again!

Management 3.0: #4 Exploration Days

After we talked about the management 3.0 techniques Kudo Cards, the Moving Motivators and the Delegation Poker it is time to talk about one of my favorites: the Exploration Days!

Exploration what?

You may have never heard of the term Exploration Days, but you may know them by a different name! They’re often called slack time, hacking days, pet projects, ShipIt days and sometimes hackathons (which in my eyes is something completely different, but that’s another story :)). What’s exactly meant by this? Quite easy: giving the employees the chance to self educate or to develop something on their own. And all of this great things in and while their normal working hours. Some of the main goals are a better motivation of the individuals, a better connection between the team members among themselves and the company and more outside the box thinking team members. You can fill the time with whatever ideas come up from the crowd. Important is to make it fun for everybody who wants to join! I’ve heard and experienced a variety of implementations. For instance google lets it completely to your own what you’re doing in your twenty percent of each work week. The other side i know is, that the company (often somewhere in between your boss and the team) decides what you are allowed to do. Both have goods and bads.

My experiences

It is a bit tough for me to find the right balance between respect and full honesty. In one company we were waiting for the implementation of this kind of stuff for a longer time. When we finally were allowed to start, it was quite unclear who had to approve the topic and it was a mess. Somehow there came up big discussions what to do when and if doing some things at all. Overall it was nice to have the time to do something to develop further. On the other side all the waiting and the big discussions gave an off-taste to the whole thing. Not the greatest experience. For me some things are clear: whenever Exploration Days are implemented, it should not be talked to long about it without starting and the rules have to be crystal clear. Even if the rules are too harsh, because the company fears employees are wasting time. Reasons for this can be cultural (some kind of distrust) or business need (the business model can’t handle non earning time).

What contact to Exploration Days (or their brothers) did you have? Which experiences did you made? Did it helped to be more motivated or was there a drop in motivation caused by strange rules or bureaucracy? Let the world know it by leaving a comment!

Thanks for reading and have a good time exploring!

Management 3.0: #3 Delegation Poker

A while ago i presented the first management 3.0 technique, the Kudo Cards and Box, in an earlier post and the Moving Motivators in the second post of this little series. Now i will write about the next technique: the Delegation Poker. Have you ever delegated to someone else? If so, you maybe have found yourself in a situation where you not knew how the status of the delegated job is or where you were not satisfied with the quality of the result. This two examples point out things which can happen, if you miss to make things clear. If you delegate, you should try to make the what, how and why as clear as crystal! Lets have a short look from the other side: have you ever had a boss who complained or even worse redone your work after you finished a job for him? There we have the unclear expectations again! The Delegation Poker tries to solve this problems and to make aware how much the person who receives the delegated jobs can and wants to handle them. This last point is reached by giving the chance of saying “i want you to do more in this particular case”.

As you see, delegation is more a scale than just a binary thing. Not only you or me, but little nuances like i will ask you or i will discuss with you. With this in mind we are able to find compromisses and negotiate where both of us see the job and the responsibility. Lets have a look at the actual cards we have in the Delegation Poker! There are the following:

  • tell
  • sell
  • consult
  • agree
  • advise
  • inquire
  • delegate

Now that we know the cards, we can have a look at the game itself. First we need a set of scenarios we want to decide who should have what responsibility. This can be easy little jobs or complex and complicated things like leading a whole department. We pick one after another of this scenarios and everybody selects secretly which card is nearest to his wished delegation level. All cards are revealed together, when every player decided for a card. If everybody has the same card, it is clear and decided, which level of delegation is chosen. If there are different cards, than it is obvious that there is a need to talk about the diverging ideas and wishes. After a short discussion there is the next round for the same topic, until there is a consensus. The results are noted on the delegation board: horizontal are the tasks to delegate (or not) and vertical are the seven cards. We make a mark on every line for which level of delegation we agreed on.

My experience

In the receiving position it was really fun and helpful to play Delegation Poker! It helped making clear to me which priorities we as a department have. Afterwards there was a motivation boost and i felt heard and valued. Even if there was not everything what i would liked to have in my direct influence. When i first wanted to play the Delegation Poker game it was a hard time. I chose an emotionally really charged situation. We had to put the cards aside to get out of the stressful area. Afterwards we found, that we can’t decide, if not also everybody is there to make all the decisions. So giving the Delegation Poker has some easily assessable conditions. Make sure there are no big emotional stress points open and that every decision maker is aware what you are going to do and even better: they are in the room and want to join too.

What are your experiences with delegating? Did you talked about it or was there just a “Hey, could you do this?”? Did you used the Delegation Poker and the Delegation Board? Just leave a comment and let the world and me know what you learned!

Thanks for reading and have fun delegating and being delegated!

Book review: The Five Dysfuntions of a Team

Have you ever worked in a team? Was it always easy and trouble-free? I hope not, because without some little conflicts something is really wrong! At least it feels not really vivid and not really human. The point is to handle this situations well. One approach to tackle the most problems is the one of Patrick M. Lencioni to watch out for the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Lets first list them and then discuss a bit further what they meen:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

They are build like a pyramid: the ground and base for everything is the trust. Without trust in the team, you don’t need to think about conflict or results. If the team members don’t trust each other, it is hard to go in good conflict, the healthy conflicts. They are necessary to feel committed to the common goals. Without this the team members see no reason to hold each other accountable. And if nobody is having a look at the others, there is no attention into the results. That’s it. As easy as this all problems are in a simple line of causes.

How to get to attention to results

Whenever you see a dysfunction described in one of the five pyramid layers, start fixing this exact layer. If it is not directly one of those five, try to find out in which layer it starts. Sometimes the teams are not showing distrust openly. You find one member is asking everybody else, but not her team for a thing. Or you feel a slight thing around the results, like everybody is doing stuff, but there are constant hard discussions about the direction. Whatever you feel the actual layer with a not perfect running team is-start there! Find out in private talks to each of them if it is really the right layer. Look into the book, find a good excercise and go through it with your team. Tell them, that you will have an eye on the thing and want them to look for it too. Tell them repeatedly, what their goal is. For example “you are a team, our goal is, that you’re working effective and efficient together”. If the layer of dysfunction is fixed go to the next higher one and fix this one. Always be on only one layer at a time. Stay there, till it is fixed! Reflect with the team, if the layer is fixed before going up.

My experiences

The most astonishing thing for me was to realize how many things can break a teams attention to results. It can come from so many directions: from above, from the side and from below. If the boss is not respectful, nobody stays respectful for a longer time. It needs so much discipline to maintain respect in such a situation. If you are not allowed to keep your team members accountable, it will end up not well, if nobody interrupts the vicious circle. And it is a real vicious circle: if one thing is broken and not fixed, the layers below will break soon! Why should you hold someone accountable, if nobody cares for the results? Why should anybody commit to something, if there are no consequences?

The awesome part about this book is: it really works! There is a magic behind it, which makes it easy to approach any overwhelming seeming problem. And after some attempts your team is getting better. Already the sign that you care helps the team to feel better. In most cases they want to understand and help fixing the problem. If you keep repeating that the problem will be solved, it helps fixing it. The greatest feeling is, when your team members come up with ideas how to solve the problem and make the team work even better. You only have to start and stick in some situations.

Sometimes it is not the best idea to tell the guys what you are going to do with them. Some don’t want to have the touchy-feely things at work and in their live. For these situations i don’t have something what works really good. Only to not tell front up next time, to not disturb the walk through.

What experience do you have with team building? Did you read other great books on the topic? What problems did you had in your teams? How did you solved them? I would be happy if you would leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and have always great ideas for fixing your team problems!

Story Points

After i’ve wrote about User Stories there were some questions about the closely related topic of the Story Points. I will try to cover those in this blog post.

What they are

A Story Point is an artificial estimation measurement for a User Story. It is artificial on purpose. We don’t want to have it exact, because this would take us too much time to reach. The main value in estimating in Story Points is this: the ideal Story Point estimation makes every story, which is estimated with the same scale by the same persons comparable to every other story for which the same things apply. We need this two conditions, the same scale and at least nearly the same group, for important reasons. If we try to compare stories which are estimated with different scales, we are comparing the famous apples with oranges. This will not help in seing how long a team will need to finish the given set of stories. Same applies if completely different people estimate the stories. Even if they know the original scale, they will see the world through different eyes. Which makes the estimation different. This can be good, if the estimation gets more realistic, or bad, if it is tending more to the unrealistic direction.

The difference of Story Points to the famous man-day is, that we not only have a look on the effort it will take, but also on the risk and the complexity. So a nearly effortless story with a huge risk can be estimated higher than a easy, boring, time eater routine story. Same for a not much to do, but complex set of tasks: it can be estimated higher.

What they are not

We are trying to make the estimation in Story Points more adequate but not exact. Trying to reach exact estimations would mean to have a complete plan for every step. With User Stories we try to give the team the possibility to explore the solution and work strong together. With the need of having exact times and an exact plan, we kill creativity, team work and the feeling of responsibility. As already mentioned Story Points contain not only the time! This is important to have always in mind, there is never a precise mapping of Story Points to a time needed or even to a precise point of time in the calendar. The agile part in Story Points is, that we try to get things like team work and responsibility in exchange for the illusion of an exact plan. Things will always go wrong and no plan survives the project, so we let the planning phase be a bit short and gain other values out of it.

How to get a first baseline

My first teams to be introduced into Scrum and Story Point estimations had a situation, where not everybody was comfortable to estimate. The reasons were somewhere inbetween estimation by management and hard deadlines made by sales without asking. Here comes what helped everybody not worrying, but just going: we layed out a Fibonacci sequence of cards (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100) on the middle of the desk. As you may note, from twenty on the Fibonacci sequence is broken. That’s for easiness, everybody can remember twenty, fourty and one hundred. But try to remember 21, 34 and 55. Yep, only a little bit harder, but think in two weeks again. Back to the main topic! We take the first story, discuss what has to be done. If it fits around the eight or thirteen, we put it on the desk in between those two numbers or on one of them. If it is somewhere else, take another story to start, till you have one which fits between eight and thirteen. Ask everybody, if there are open points to discuss with this decision. If so, talk and move the card till everybody is happy with its place. Now take the next story. Decide, if it is bigger or smaller than the first. Try to find a good place for it. Take always only one story and sort it into the already given stories. After every story reflect, if the card sits correct where it is and if you need to rescale all the stories for a better measurement. Reasons for rescaling can be that everything is on one side of the scale in a range of two or three points or if there are stories which seem to fit nowhere. When the team found enough stories fitting in the scale, let them choose for each point of the Fibonacci sequence an example story. These stories you bring with you whenever the team will have to estimate the next two or three times. They can be seen as reference points, if there are differences in the points of view. After a while everybody should have a common feeling what an amount of Story Points meens.

My experience with these steps:

As mentioned the first teams i guided through the learning how to estimate had distrust against estimations. For this situation it was way easier to just talk about one story at a time than have the discussion why to estimate and how to do it. The guys were open to follow it step by step and no big discussions came up. The guided tour through the process made it easy and painless for all of us. When we came to the end it was even the case, that the team members came up with suggestions how to rescale and were in vivid discussions about if a story is a five or an eight. My theory is, that whenever you go through easy steps with a group of people, they tend to come with you. But if you tell them “we’re going to xyz” they can come up with the complains and boycotts. To me seems to be like in the great book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. There is a theory of how to get people painless to get to a solution or decision by guiding everybody through phases. There you first open the solution space and than talk through the possible solutions to find the best solution (or the least worse one ;)) and choose one solution in the end. Really excited made me, that even new guys had an easy time to get into the estimation after a few months. Almost everyone new to the team made it after just one time with only watching to get really fitting results! One developer made it arlready in the first Backlog Refinement she participated, to come up with fitting estimations. That left me speechless! The last observations i want to share are the following: there developed a game thingy in our estimations which is like “if everyone has the same number, than we get a shot”. Nope we aren’t drinking at work. Even if it seems as a good idea :)! That made the Backlog Refinements and the Sprint Plannings real fun, thanks for that guys! But its important to mention, that everybody knows, that the differences in the later on blind estimations are more a big value. Because we afterwards talk why the values differ. Within that talks we discover risks and clear questions.

What are your experiences with estimations in general and especially with Story Points? Have you ever asked yourself “How to get these guys to estimate?”? What worked well for you and what absolutely not worked?

Leave me a comment and tell me what you liked or not liked about this article! Thanks for reading and have a great estimation :)!

Management 3.0: #2 Moving Motivators

In an earlier blog post i wrote about the Management 3.0 technique of the Kudo Cards and what i’ve learned using them.

Today we’re going to have a look at my experiences with the Moving Motivators, as you guessed it right, also a Management 3.0 technique. The key question the Moving Motivators try to solve is the following: what are the intrinsic motivations of a person and what does she win or lose if something changes? So it is a tool to become aware of the things the player thinks are most important to herself and make them transparent. That said, we can have a look at the motivators one can choose from. They are the following:

  • Curiosity
  • Honor
  • Acceptance
  • Mastery
  • Power
  • Freedom
  • Relatedness
  • Order
  • Goal
  • Status

Note, that the first letters form the word CHAMPFROGS, which reminds me of the great book Eat That Frog! – you don’t know it? My recommendation: read it, its full of entertaining small pieces of daily usable wisdom!

Lets have a look on the overall process: we have a facilitator, a player and the deck of motivator cards. The facilitator explains the steps and asks further questions to point out insecurities and make things clearer. First step is, that the player sorts the motivators in descending order of how important they are for her. Second step is to ask a question to have a closer look at. This can be as simple as “How will my life change, if i take the next step in my carreer and go to XYZ?”. With this question in mind you now have a look at each of the motivators. Will this motivator change to the good or to the bad? If its getting better with this decision, you move the motivator card upwards as much as you feel. If the motivator will be damped or you feel it will go down, you move the motivator card downwards as much as necessary. If you want to decide between several options, you can play the game multiple times, till you have a complete set of “How my life will change”-situations. You than can compare the options from another point of view.

When i played the game myself, i found some helpful things for myself: first i loved finding out what my motivators are. Being aware about what i need and want a bit more clearly made my expectations more realistic. Seeing that some things can be better, while other things go worse, gave me a deeper understanding of the complexity. When seeking for the next job it helped me and still helps me to figure out what i really want and where to go and where not.

When i played the game as facilitator i found, that this little game is a powerful tool for many people to find their way. On top it is a great structure to get in touch with the deeper feelings of one another. Whenever two people need to find out the real intention and motivation of one another it is a good starting point to have a look at the cards and open up. This is easier than with the direct question, because the cards and fun of a game is making the situation not looking to serious. But: you can handle really serious situations, don’t be fooled by the nice looking cards!

As a bonus i developed a nice little browser tool, with which you can play the Moving Motivators online. You can even save and load your results to have a look later on (have a look in the lower right corner for the icons ;)!

Did you ever heard from the Moving Motivators? What are your experiences with them? In which role did you played them? And what did you learned while plaing it? If you never heard of it: did this post animated you to try it out?

Thanks for reading and have a successful day!