Design Cards!

Gamification is a great thing to get fun and motivation into daily routine. When working on Software there can be long discussions about how to solve a problem or which problem needs more attention. Good, that there are principles like KISS or Divide and Rule. If you’re like me, you will have examples of situations, where the discussion was over and you remembered one of this principles. It would have been marvelous to come up with the right thing at the right time! What can we do about this pitty? Right, train these principles and have something physical, reminding, near the discussions! Luckily there is now something to get this problems solved: the Design Cards from Christian Rehn and Matthias Wittum. They are here to help you memorize and remind you the right things at the right time. Lets have a short look at them:

Different types of principles have different colors.
A very nice box and high quality!

I am happy, that we have those cards now in our team and couldn’t be more keen to see the results in the discussions. For now i can recommend the Design cards fully!

What different types of cards do you have? And what are they for?

As always thanks for sharing and reading!

Switch on wordpress debugging

To switch on the wordpress debugging completely, you have to put this code into the wp-config.php (before the “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing. */”)

// DEBUGGING:
define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true);
define(‘WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY’, true);

Differences between managing and leading

Frequently the two words managing and leading are mixed up. While it is true, they describe very similar and related things, they differ by the underlying principles.

Managing is the administration of an organisation. So it is part of the outer form. It is a piece of the basic design of an organisation. In the most cases managing needs a formal authorisation and is assigned to different layers of a hierarchy.

Leadership and leading is more general. You don’t need the authorisation of your organisation to lead. You don’t need the hierarchy layer and your position in there to lead. You need the trust of the people you want to lead. You need them to want you to lead. And there can be different leaders for the same group of people to lead. One nice example for such a structure is the Scrum Framework. You got the Product Owner, leading the Team in the “What” and the Scrum Master leading the Team in the “How”. But what you really need for good leadership is the right culture. There must be respect and security for all, the leading ones and the guided ones.

What are your experiences with leading and managing? What is/was more fun? Where came your problems from? Let the world know by a comment!

As always thanks for reading and sharing, i hope you loved it! If not, please give me a hint how to improve!

About pushing donkeys and the magically pulling ones (McGregor X and Y)

Have you ever been in a (work) situation and asked yourself how it comes, that everything feels a bit odd? It is weird, you can’t put your finger on it, its everywhere and nobody seems to do anything on their own. You have to tell everybody what to do, how to do it and especially when. You hear phrases like “THAT was not described” or “that is not my task/my job”. One possible explanation is the following: the world is directly bound to what you and your surrounding thinks what life is. Let us have a closer look on the deepest believes. Here especially the theory of X and Y by McGregor.

X – what is it?

First comes the odd example we started the post with: the Theory X. In this mindset the believe, that the average worker has no fun at work at all, is very strong. If even possible, the motivation has to be extrinsic. Either treats, like money, or threat will do this job. You have to push everyone like a stubborn donkey to do anything. Deeply underlying in this world is the thesis “everybody hates work”. Interesting part is, that after a while in such a surrounding many guys will really hate their work. And they will need to be pushed, because nothing really matters for them.

Y – why is it?

On the other side of the scale there is a viewpoint where everybody is intrinsic motivated. The typical guy loves to work and enjoys the fruits of it. She needs goals bigger than herself. Work is seen as a part of life! With this insights the intrinsic motivation is born and cultivated in everybody.

Z – what comes next?

Not invented or thought by McGregor, but remarkable is Theory Z. Here the leader or manager sees even further and creates the culture very aware into the direction of meaning and moral. On this path failure is seen as natural, a way to learn and improve things and people. The creativity is fostered in every possible way. Everything tends to push not only the team or organisation forwards, but the whole environment forward. This deeper meaning lasts much longer and unleashes more energy than just letting people doing as they think it is best.

Conclusion

There is no completely X or Y or Z environment. As always, if there are individuals, everyone has her own state of mind, her own level of evolution and her own beliefs. This concept of diversity can be found also in books about Spiral Dynamics, Tribes and Tribal Leadership. The most common states can be assumed as the state of the whole system. Also the widespreaded culture in the leadership tells you the main stream.

To identify your peers, carefully look for things in the outer world, like checklists with a signing policy (don’t get me wrong, there are critical environments in which those are necessary – but if they are massive used for really small things, it can be a good pointer). Also develop a sense for phrases people/managers/leaders use. A common example is “you can’t rely on anybody”, “if you want it done well, just do it yourself” or “they are doing what they want”. This shows deeply, the missing trust for intrinsic motivation of others. Find out your personal type. Or at least try it! Ask your peers, what they think, if you don’t have a specific feeling. Be proud of whatever comes out – it is ok to be X, Y or Z. It only is another tool! Don’t blame anybody else for their nature. If you are a good leader, you will learn how to lift people to the next level. If you aren’t able already now!

What are your experiences with cultures and such categorizations? Do you know your characteristic? Let the world know and leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and sharing if you liked it!

Work – you get what you throw in!

You always stumble upon the same problems whereever you work? It doesn’t matter if we are talking about new work or the good old way of working: everything starts with your thoughts, habits, feelings and beliefs. Your inner landscape mirrors in your (micro) reactions. Others can sense these signals and react immediately. The greatest example for this in my life was while hiking with my lovely girl friend in southern France: out of nowhere came a young boy, way behind his parents, who unasked just gave me a high five. We both had a huge smile and felt great. That was a positive example. If you radiate peace, you will probably get more peace. If you believe, that everybody wants to attack you, you will offend your peers unaware. They mostly will not be able to put their finger on it, but they will feel fear and defend theirselves. If you believe, that everybody is able to develop into something even better (have we talked about seeing the best in your peers already? A good upcoming post idea!), they will feel an open culture. The spirit of engagement can swap around and push everybody to try harder.

So whatever is inside of you, be brave, take a sharp look on it and try to see it as it is. Don’t be ashamed of unperfect things, accept them and decide to become a better version of yourself, maybe even the best version possible!

As always thanks for reading and sharing!

Scrum won’t fix any of your problems!

Ahhh, it’s out! Scrum won’t fix your problems. Ok, in some chaotic situations it will bring order into the game (like the speaker in the british House of Commons :)). But everything else it will only show you very transparent. You will have to find the best ways to solve your customer problems and yours. You are in charge to fix your broken culture, the conflicts in and between your teams.

Scrum only gives a frame. You remember how the Scrum Guide starts with “Scrum is a framework for…“. And that’s it. A framework giving you the chance to work with consistency and even more important: transparency. If you do it right, you will end up with an endless stream of problems to solve. Scrum shows them unforgiving. You will have to talk frequently about them. And it divides the problems into “how you work”, “what you achieved (or not)” and “what your next goals are”.

Conclusion

A huge pro of Scrum is the big transparency it brings to your organisation. It helps to develop every part of your process in a human centric manner. And on top it is easy to explain!

Hard thing is, that culture is hard to change. There can be resistance. Unaware values can make things even harder. Often you see high expectations and when people realize not everything will end up in well in a wink, they are disappointed.

What are your experiences with Scrum and the expectations at it? What disappointments did you saw? Which resistance did you realized and how did you got over it? Leave a comment and let the world know!

As always thanks for reading and sharing! I hope you liked it!

Scrum is just another leadership attempt

Lets put a finger on some hard spots: Scrum is no silver bullet! It will not fit in every situation. On top it will not be the best solution for every situation. Whenever the humans in the organisation aren’t ready to accept and internalize the mindsets behind Scrum, it will not work.

Next spot i want to look at is what i call the holy knowledge how it should be. The Scrum Guide leaves much room for the implementations. This is on purpose. There is room for finding the best fitting solutions for every problem you and the organisation encounter. You can’t expect that two randomly implementations of Scrum are exact the same. Ok, you can, but you will be disappointed! No two organisations have the same

  • customers and their needs,
  • employees and their knowledge and needs,
  • roles and rules and
  • relationships and contracts.

Having said this, we must step back and admit, that there can not be a role, event or artefact that has to be exactly as you imagine it or saw somewhere else. Everything may differ. And it is ok! I dare to say everything should differ to fulfill the specific needs.

So lets accept, that Scrum is just an attempt how to solve problems. It is a great one, with many pros. But it is not more than one of many leadership attempts.

What is Scrum for you? Have you stumbled upon somebody stubborn? Let the world know and leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and sharing, hope you enjoyed it!

Effective and efficient Daily Scrums

Lets talk about one of the most important meetings in the Scrum framework: the Daily Scrum. It is, as the name says, hold on every day of the Sprint (ok, just on the working days :D). In the daily the team comes together to find out how the Sprint is going, what could be a risk to not reach the Sprint Goal and how to prevent not finishing the most important stuff. With important stuff here is ment the things which give the most business value.

The famous three questions

The most frequent thing you hear or read about the Daily Scrum (e.g. the Scrum Guide) are the following three questions every team member should answer:

  • What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

Lets have a short look who you need in a Daily Scrum. At least you need the team members (not the whole Scrum Team). Often it is good to have the Scrum Master and the Product Owner there too. The Scrum Master can give hints how to handle certain issues or point out risks which the team is not seeing. Also she can help the team focus more on improtant and necessary stuff. So for instance he can point out, that the team is premature optimizing a not yet proven solution or not focusing on customer needs any longer. The Product Owner can be a listening and answering part of the Daily Scrum.

Three questions – the dark side

The risk with the “three questions Daily Scrum” is, that the team is just doing a report. If your company has the structure, that the Product Owner is also the boss of the team, chances are high, that the team is not selforganizing and swarming around the problems, but just looking direct into the eyes of the Product Owner/boss and reporting to him. They will tell him what they have done and what will be done next. But even if there is no such structural antipattern the risk of unseen risks is given in this approach of the Daily Scrum. This risk comes with the three questions, which are easily mistransformed to the following questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • Do I see any impediment?

Maybe you see what happened? We completely lost the focus on the important part, the Sprint Goal. The questions are sounding very similar. If you don’t look, or better listen, carefully, it seems alright, that the team answers the shorter questions. But: without the focus it is very probable, that the team forgets fast which reason they have: the “Why?”, the “What for?”. The team lost the focus on the customer needs. Now the team can fill the fifteen minutes of Daily Scrum with unimportant chat. They can seem very busy and look like hard working, but can achieve no business value at all.

Other reasons for hidden risks can be fear or shame. If somebody isn’t feeling safe, she can come into the state of fear, that is the obvious way and shouldn’t need further discussion. The other way it is possible to become fearfull, if you have a hidden or personal goal. For instance you want a raise or a promotion. Than some colleagues tend to bury their mistakes deep under a mile of talking about nuts and bolts all the time. If somebody is ashamed, because she can’t solve a problem, the same can happen. Important here is transparency and security. Work into the why and fix it as deeply as possible!

Why Daily Scrums?

Short break and remember whatfor we do have Daily Scrums: we want to assure, that we reach the Srpint Goals. Therefore we plan on a very small scale what to do next. And we want to identify handle risks as early as possible. With this early access to the risks, we can plan the Sprint as safe as possible. Back to the How!

How to organize an efficient and effective Daily Scrum

The approach i am writing about is based on Eric Brechners presentation. He is talking about Kanban, but that’s no problem. I tried it with some teams and had great results. The teams were focused on the most important things nearly all the time. It is really simple: everybody answers just the questionAre there any risks or problems for reaching our goals?

  • Are there any risks or problems for reaching our goals?

The focus is just on the things which can go wrong or are already going wrong. First we decide, if it is an important issue. If it is not solvable on the spot, we don’t talk through the solution at all. We focus on the second question:

  • Who will solve this issue with whom?

You can decide to go person by person, story by story or just throwing the question into the room. Just figure out, what works best for the team. In my teams we only asked into the room and gave everyone a look. Normally every issue came out on their own, only sometimes a question about a topic was needed to see the risk.

Later we realized that focusing only on problems, issues and risks is a bit demotivating and we added “Are there joys or are you proud on something?”. That made the Daily Scrum much more fun!

Conclusion

Have you tried this method for Daily Scrums? Or the three questions mentioned in the beginning? Or a completely different method? Let us know and write a comment!

As always i hoped you liked it, thanks for reading and sharing!

Divide and rule in Scrum – the events

Sometimes it is fun to have a look on old knowledge from a different point of view! In this case the old knowledge is Scrum-you’re familiar with it, right? The viewpoint i chose today is the good old divide et impera or defeat in detail! As already announced in the first blog post about the roles in Scrum, here is the next part of the mini-series: the Scrum events in the light of divide et impera. Enough chitchat, let’s dive in!

The events

The official Scrum Guide talks about five Scrum events: the Sprint, the Sprint Planning, the Daily Scrum, the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective. We will talk about them one after another!

The Sprint

I see you asking “How is the Sprint splitting anything?”. I asked myself too and here it is: by taking always small chunks of functionality, or even better business value, putting them into one Sprint and completing them one by one. Seems too simple, right? And it truly is very basic. When the Product Owner does a good job, the developed items are ordered by the maximum value. Here the divide et impera gives us the power to develop every section of the application only up to the point when another one has bigger value. This is one part of the huge power of Scrum – the biggest customer value wins! So we are dividing the “what” into doable parts while staying able to react very fast and not waste time on finishing unused features!

The Sprint Planning

The first meeting and the starting point of every Sprint is the Sprint Planning. It is there to shape the Sprint Goal and how to achieve it. The Scrum Team makes the very first step on the “how” level. Often this is done in two steps: looking for possible ways to achieve and than deciding which way to choose and clear the way further.

Another way this meeting divides and rules is by splitting and sorting: if a Product Backlog Item is too big for one Sprint, it is divided into several smaller ones until something fits in. If a Product Backlog Item is to expensive at all, it gets out of the Product Backlog. Hopefully!

The Daily Scrum

In this very effective meeting the Development Team goes through “how” questions of the most important Sprint Backlog Item. The team focuses on how to reach the given Sprint Goal as best and fast as possible. This can mean to decide who does what till the next day. Who will check which possible prototype idea or who will implement what part (maybe in pair programming with who). We have a further division of the how in a more detailed granularity.

The Sprint Review

In the Sprint Review the whole Scrum team looks at “what have we done?”. It is the counterpart for the Sprint Planning-here we look backwards on what was finished. If the Product Backlog Item was only a part of something, here is the first chance to decide, if we adjust this part, go further on the way or spend time and energy in another feature set.

The Sprint Retrospective

The place to look at the “how we are working” is the Sprint Retrospective. Here is the division: in the Sprint Review we looked at the “what was done”. By this segregation of concerns it is assured, that we have a focus on reaching the goals and improving always over time. So we work to reach our business goals and assure to be or become more agile/flexible/professional/whatever our market needs. This Janus-faced character is a wondrous feature of Scrum.

Conclusion

So we’ve seen, that the Scrum meetings are full of dividing and ruling on different stages and at different times. On an abstract point of view there is no need for breaking things more down than it is done in Scrum. If its done right ;)!

What are your thoughts on the Scrum events in general and in this point of view? Do you have something else you want to read about? Would you like to look from another perspective or do you want to see an other part of Scrum analyzed? Did you liked this blog post? Let the world know it and leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and sharing 🙂 i hope you liked it!

How to give advice

Let me give you some advice about a very complicated topic: ADVICE! It is an area where you can destroy many things or build real and vivid relationships. First of all i want to step on the shoulders of giants: stop your advice monster (a big THANK YOU again to Michael B. Stanier for this great metaphor from The Coaching Habit). Advice monster? Yes, giving advice is an art and you should not give it without permission and only if you are really forced to give it. But the most of us have a little monster on the shoulder, which is pushing us to give advice even if nobody asked for. It is our habit to give advice. Whenever you do it, the others, or better the advice recipients, will give their responsibility to you… and you guess it, you will take their chance to grow by this.

General things

Let’s dive quick into the topic: whenever somebody shows up and asks for advice, take the time for them. If it is not possible right now, make an appointment soon. Give the people the respect you would want to get and care! Step back from just saying “do this and that” towards listening and lifting up your fellows. Be flexible with the following steps – some people or situations need more, some people need less. Experiment with the process and try to find out what works best for you and in your surrounding. Be transparent about this experimentation by telling “let us try this and that”.

In my eyes it is appropriate to be happy, that somebody came to you with her problem. It is showing the big trust in you (or the arising one). As consequence thankfulness should be your attitude. This helps you later on being open and really helping.

Try to be as generous as possible. To the ones who come to you and the ones they might have trouble with. We are all humans and mistakes are human too. Even if you don’t like somebody it seems a good habit to assume always the best intents and freeing your mind towards those people.

The easy steps

Step one: Listen actively

First and most important of all: listen! But not just sitting around and waiting, be as curious as possible. Ask over and over again about more side parts or in depth. How should you be useful, if you don’t understand the full problem? And you will not understand it fully… never 🙂

Step two: Open new options

Whatever came up in the discussion till now, somehow we don’t want to stay at the problem stage (side note: in the great book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making the problem opening phase is followed by a grown zone, which should not extended to long). We need solutions! Those are made of possible options to solve the problem. Help your asker to see as much ways as you can to get out of the dark seas. Start maybe with “What do you think we could do about it?” to open space for own ideas. In my experience those are most fitting and sustained ones. If there are more solutions which aren’t found by their own, offer them in a friendly way by asking “Do you think this could work too?”.

Step three: Help deciding which option to choose

From here you will observe a wide range of possible things which could happen: from “Thank you so much, i will go this way!” to being completely overwhelmed and not able to decide. When in doubt, ask for every possible solution “What will change for now and in the future, if we go this way?”. Closely listen and note the things which come up. When you’ve talked about every useful solution, the question to answer is “Which way points to the best possible (or sometimes least bad) future?”. If there is such a solution and the advice seeker has a good feeling about it, you’ve made it. Ask again, if there is something left. Sometimes small side things are open and can be handled separated. Last part here: be thankful again and let everybody know it!

Step four (optional): Ask for feedback

If you two find a solution, that’s great! If it feels right to ask for a little feedback: go for it! Sometimes you will get the feedback anyway. Sometimes it is good to wait some days or weeks to ask how the things worked out.

Conclusion

Make a difference for the people who come to you! Don’t hurry to give advice to fast, let them stand up and go their way. This way they feel better and more responsible. They will have more self-efficacy and a boost of self-confidence.

Thanks for reading! What things came up when you gave advice? What mistakes did you make? What did you learn? Leave a comment and let the world know!