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!

Great leadership

At this point of time i feel that its a good moment to fixate my learnings about leadership. The ones i felt how i would like to go, the ones i learnt by horrible mistakes or blind spots and the ones i read about. Why do i want to write about them? Just to reflect my situation and where i am now and what i want to reach. Some things i already live quite well, some things i want to achieve. Lets dive in directly with the first and biggest learning: leading starts with yourself!

Lead yourself first

This is the way most important thing about leadership i see: when you’re not able to lead yourself, you can’t lead others. Well you can, but you will not be as effective and successful as you could be. So the journey to become a great leader, starts with your first step to reflect yourself regularly. It is very helpful to be aware about the situation in yourself and in the others around you. This gives you the possibility to see the chances you and others have in this exact moment. And seeing more options opens a whole new universe of possible solutions.

Be respectful with yourself. This one starts with the thoughts you have and goes over the actions you take. If someone around you is consequently and constantly disrespecting you or your role, than first of all talk to them, if this doesn’t help to their boss and if it still doesn’t change, do yourself a favor and move on to the next position. Easy as this: you always have the option to accept it, change it or leave.

Win the inner game: don’t let the lazy dog do his “laying in the sun” game. Go progressive against procrastination! Don’t shout out every angry comment you have in your mind. Often its not making the situation going anywhere good. Don’t rant around about everything and everyone. Sometimes its good to show the energy of anger, but you should spare it for the points when the time is ripe and your peers are open for the extra energy shot. Exploding daily makes it common and nobody will listen to you any longer. So in a nutshell: you are the boss of the feelings you have and show. Win the fights with yourself, to win the ones outside.

The next point of leadership is focusing. I know a lot of guys with great ideas. They have plenty of them and are keen about all of them. They start to build a thing and a week later they tend to the next one and leave the first one aside unfinished. By this habit they leave a trail of started projects and none of them works. Sometimes its the point, that they tend not to get over the dip in a new area and sometimes they just leave it die because there is a newer, more sexy thing around. With focus on only a small set of goals or projects you will always reach better results. If you only have a little set of objectives, it will be easier to stay on track and reach them. When you finish one, you can and should put a new one on your list. My maximum which worked out very well was three goals at a time. More goals and i tended to not make the goals big enough. Less worked well, but if there is a external blocker in one thing, which you only can influence and not shape directly, its getting a bit unfocused again. You have no goal number two and don’t want to open a new one without finishing the old one. A small dilemma, but it’s ok. So three objectives is my favorite. By prioritizing them in the Eisenhower matrix you can assure to not work on things which are not important and urgent. More great hints on how to get the right things done are in the book Eat That Frog!.

In my eyes having a vision is another key to lead yourself to something great. Sure, often in life there is no easy planning for how to go step by step to where you want to end up in your carreer. You meet the most important people in your life sometimes on purpose and sometimes just by accident. But forming a clear vision helps seeing when the right ones stand in your door. You get the chance to feel that there is someone who can give you something, if you have your why as concise as possible in your mind. With the why often a what and a how comes for free. Find the leaders worthy to follow. And search for them! Look for great visions and the ability to inspire others with the ideas and the questions!

The last two things you can do are being proud and keeping your ego in its healthy boundaries. As often in life it is important to have a good balance. Here this means to have a standing, an opinion and to not stand still on this opinion. If there is a better way to see things, switch to it. If the new way doesn’t work out well after a time: go back! Be agile and flexible in your mind. Nothing is worth leadership than staying stubborn on your old point and expecting better results than you already got. Some things should form your core values. You should not touch these values. For example one of my core values is respect. Sure, its sometimes hard to maintain, if somebody is disrespectful over and over again on purpose, but its worth to have such a value and i won’t skip it for little things.

Lead others to grow leaders too

As we’ve talked about things which touch only you, lets see how to handle the easier part: the others ūüôā

One thing i would like to point out first is this: don’t talk patronizingly to others. This gives them a feeling of not being worthy and takes away motivation. Even more you should not think about others in such a way. It already forms your actions and your mindset in a way where your opposite feels whatever they say, you are or feel to be the better one. Which is not only a strange feeling, but also a demotivating factor. The opposite of thinking like this is to ask for their ideas and try to get them involved by heart. This is done by letting them create the things they invented. They proposed a good product feature? Let the ones who had the idea build it! They came up with a better process? Let them improve the status quo with the help of you! They will feel included, valued and worthy. They are in it with their full hearts!

To have your team and coworkers on your side, you need to be crystal clear in where to go, how and why. That’s a key to have the ones which care, on your side (the other ones you will never get, they are already gone in their mind). You need to come up with a vision and communicate it. When you’ve clearified what the goal is, you can always set borders around it and communicate respectful feedback. This is needed to not get lost in anarchy and stay on track. Like parents you need to say “no” to things which get the organization and the team away from its goals. Its your responsibility as the leader to watch out where the team is going. And this borders, rules and visions have to be repeated over and over again! The repitition has to be done until things are improved and everyone understands the why behind the what.

Lets talk about one not so nice part of leading: the complains. Whatever you do, decide or tell, there could be someone complaining or even hating it. I am not sure, if it is a limiting belief, but you can’t be with every decision on the “love it” side for everybody everytime. So expect to make hard decisions and get harsh feedback from above, your side and the ones you lead. A big help for me always is to separate what is against me and what against my role. Try to find out where the complains come from. Is it an unfulfilled need? Try to figure out how to fill this hole. Is it a demotivation? Try to explain and find a motivator which you can use now. The key is to only solve the issues which are the root cause and not fiddle around with the symptoms. They will come back again with the next decision.

Ok, enough of the hard parts – back to the loving parts again! When you lead, you have responsibility. And with responsibilty comes the obligation to care for others. In my eyes one of the good reasons to become a leader. Make sure noone is overloaded with work or responsibility. That’s not easy: one guy can handle a workload or responsibility which is way to much for the next guy. Also the actual personal situation has to be considered. Most people can handle more when in a save position at home and at work. If there are hard times at home, it is not healthy to keep the same load on their shoulders as before. Whenever you give someone more responsibility make sure, that she gets the time to grow into the new situation. Nothing is more demotivating than being thrown into the too cold water. It is substantive to make sure they know it is their responsibility now and exactly in which steps they will grow into it. Therefore it is necessary to formulate the goals and steps as SMART as you can. Try to find the best fit for the organisations and the peoples needs. Watch out that they have everything they need! Including time, the support and all materials you can find and afford. Not only for the set of goals, but also for being the best version of themselve! Take a close look on the “attractive” part of the SMART goals. If the person is not accepting the goal you set, the end of the story will be disappointment. I know that not every interpretation of the smart acronym is with an attractive, but there is always an equivalent. Without the inner support of the one you lead, the failure is programmed and waiting in one or the other way. Assure, that your followers know the goal, like the goal and belief in theirself. Therefore appreciate their successes as often as you can and make failure a pleasure to learn from. No fingerpointing, no blaming, just say “that went wrong, lets have a look what we can learn and how we can do better!”. It’s as easy as this: be respectful! Nobody makes mistakes on purpose or to do harm. Or at least very few people. And if so, find out, if it is in their personality and set borders. If these don’t work, pick them out.

Try to delegate as much as you can. If you share responsibilty with your followers everyone wins: you win time to focus on better things than doing the daily work and the others win the chance to grow and feel seen in their full potential. Everybody can be happier with shared responsibilities.

By letting others grow around you and giving them the chance to grow into a great leader too, they learn to handle things in a healthy way. They are not thrown into a leaders role from zero to one hundred percent in a day, they can take over things slowly and learn to handle inner and outer factors in small and growing scopes. By this the things are not outgrowing and the feeling of being overwhelmed is not so often present.

The last two points i want to share are those: stay until its sure you have raised good leaders which can take over the situation and search for great leaders to follow by your own. When you stay till you know the new leaders are able to handle things in a good way, you are not leaving burned ground. Sure, sometimes the situation is hardened and there is no other way than leaving. For instance if you find yourself in a mismatch of your values and the organizations values. Or if constant disrespect is given to you or your role. If talking isn’t making things better, than you should pack your stuff together and search for something new. Here comes the last big point into play: if you change your position, search for environments that fit at least at the base to you, your values and your ideas. Therefore search for the leaders which do something better than you. Those you can learn from in one or the other way. Those, which inspire you just by little talks. Which let you grow and which are searching for more than power by having a leadership position. For instance they can be interested in virtuous circles or in the people around them. It is your responsibility to have a very close look where to go next before you leave anywhere! Be picky! Don’t go for less, you only have this one live and you want to life it as great as you can. Therefore try to find the best overall! One last hint: don’t blame yourself, if you made a mistake with one of your steps. Learn from it and go further!

What experiences do you have with leadership? What great points did you find in others, which made you follow them immediately? What worked well for you? Please let a comment, if you have great insights or if you liked this article!

Thanks for reading and have fun leading your life! ūüôā

Virtuous circles

The subtitle to this post is “How to create them in your life”. But first things first! I see you asking “What is an virtuous circle?”. In german there is the word Teufelskreis which translates to doom circle or vicious circle. If you are in a vicious circle, you’re in a situation, where you over and over go through a row of events or actions and it gets worse all the time. Second characteristic for this circle is, that it seems to be impossible to break out. So you feel doomed in it to do this things forever. So far so bad… here comes the good news: there is a good counterpart, you guessed it, the virtuous circle. In german it is called Engelskreis. The virtuous circle is a situation, where everybody gets more energy while a set of actions is going on forever. If nobody breaks it. Sounds good, i know. There are many ways to create virtuous circles in your life. I will not be able to cover all of them, but in my eyes a good start is to separate them into the ones which only have yourself as acter and the ones with more protagonists.

Virtuous circles only with yourself

The first and most virtuous thing i found in my life is to be friendly with myself. Whenever something happens i try to be as friendly as possible to myself. For example if i break something, i don’t tell myself the story, that i am clumsy, but i try to think that next time i will take care more. Also don’t tell yourself, that you are something negative, like “i am dumb” or “this action was dumb”. There are enough guys in this world who can think this, but that’s not your business and in your head should not do it. Just say “Oh, that could have gone better, next time i will watch out” and you find yourself in a better mood and with more self respect. Thus you will go through the world with more positive energy and attract more positive energy. It’s not necessary to be negative, its a vicious circle. So be generous with your weak sides and with the weaknesses of others!

Another great virtuous circle generator is the habit of installing good habits in your life. So for instance if you decide to start the day more motivated than with a cup of coffee, you have plenty of choices: you can decide to meditate, make some excercises or start to write every morning for a given time in your own blog. Creating and doing physical or mental excercises are a the chance to get into the “i’ve already done something good for me before leaving the house” mood. With this feeling the hard parts of your day can’t hurt you as much as with a cup of coffee. Other positive habit examples are the Pomodoro Technique, to reflect on a daily basis or working daily on your list of your personal rules. Maybe i will write about the personal rules later in another post. Short overview: i am reading a set of rules for myself everyday before i start working. While reading them i reflect them already-what could be improved, exchanged or added? One example rule on my list is “i train constant and hard”. This helps me to have my key values and habits easier in mind, when it comes to laziness or dips.

Beside this points you can get much more virtuous circles in your life through the aware setting and reaching of your goals. Aim for bigger things and break them down into small (or only the next) steps. One good method is from the book Eat that frog: sort your todos into categories A to E, where A is most valuable and E is least valueable. Then start always with the most important A. It is called the biggest frog. When you ate this frog, go to the next one and so on. Behind this is the sweet treasure of focus. Focus will help you in a virtuous way to get further than you thought!

Virtuous circles with others

Lets talk about how to create virtuous circles with others. The first thing how to create a virtuous circle with others is as easy as obvious: giving. Whenever you give something, it may be a little bit attention or a helping hand or some friendly word or even a smile, you give the opportunity for the other one to feel good and give it back to you. The important thing about this is to give without expectation. If you’re giving with the expectation to get something back, it is not going to become virtuous. Maybe the other one feels it in the exact moment, maybe later on. Read more about it in the great book Give and take. If you give without expectation, the other one can decide to give back to you (and your virtuous circle can start) or to someone else (and a bigger circle can start).

Another start for a virtuous circle is being thankful. If you’re thankful for what you got and whom you have, you live in a mindset where you respect others as they are. This gives them the great feeling of being ok as they are. A very peaceful and healthy experience. They feel better, have more energy and the chance to give this great gift back to you or someone else. Thus we’ve started another virtuous circle. While talking about the thankfulness we already touched on the next two things: being aware and being respectful. They lay really close to each other. to be thankful its helping to aware and respectful. Whenever you are (self-)aware, you are just one step away from being thankful. Without awareness its getting harder to see the possibility to be thankful. All together form a powerful mixture of living in peace with yourself and others. Which helps you and the ones around you having more creative power to build a better future. Virtuous circle case closed :)!

With awareness you receive another great gift: you are able to handle negativity of others and not only react on it unconscious. First of all you can see whenever someone brings negativity with himself. Thats the point where you can decide to not let touch their thoughts you. By keeping this things away from yourself, you are able to make them aware of the things they do to others. On the other side you get the great chance to think about who is giving you a hint and why he is maybe doing it. By this you become more able to react properly. You get more opportunities to react without being or becoming unconscious. Than you don’t have to exclude these people from your life. You can decide to tell them whats going on and set some borders between you and them. Or you can move further full of awareness without getting enmeshed with someone.

The last tip for virtuous circle creation with others is a bit different: become a tribe leader. What’s ment with this? Just start learning how to grow a movement by not being necessary in the position of the organisational leader, but just by giving value to a group of people. Great books for learning about this topic are Tribal Leadership and Tribes. It is fun, because you end up giving and earn respect of others. This pushes you further in the direction of doing and giving more. Which helps others even further. And the circle closes in a virtuous way!

Areas of life

We’ve talked about how to create the godlike circles, let us have a closer look where you can create virtuous circles: the areas of life. In Feng Shui are nine areas of life present:

  • finances and richness
  • fame and glory
  • relationships
  • health and family
  • me, myself and i (here is ment you and only you)
  • kids and creativity
  • knowledge
  • carreer
  • helpful friends

Stefan Merath proposes eight others in his book “Der Weg zum erfolgreichen Unternehmer“:

  • personality and learning
  • happiness and emotions
  • partnership, sexuality and family
  • friends and network
  • body and healthness
  • finances and material things
  • company and entrepeneur
  • world and meaning

It is not important which system you lay under your creational path of becoming a virtuous circle master. More important is to find the points which do not work as good as you want and improve them. Another good hint is to bring the life areas in a good balance. Not just fiddle around in one area. The best example is to not only look on your finances and leave the people around you out in the cold. Everything is important and if there is no balance in between the topics in your life, you will miss happiness.

Lets have a short look at the job you got! Whenever you search for a new job, you can always ask you the following two questions:

  • Is the work philosophy of the company fitting to me?
  • What can i learn in this job?

Whenever the work philosophie fits to you, the chances are higher, that you can give while become more energized. That doesn’t mean, that you completely have the same values like the rest of all bosses and employees, it points more into the direction, that it fits together without making to much discomfort. So most of the time peaceful conversation about ways to go should be possible and valued by your peers.

The other thing you can always ask yourself is what you can learn. Whenever you ask yourself this question, you become open for other opinions and impulses. This gives you the great chance to really listen and embrace to improve yourself! When others feel this openness, they feel more free to talk in clear words their real opinion. That is a great way into working better together and creating more space for improvement and happiness.

Conclusion

We’ve seen a lot of kinds of virtuous circles and a bit of how to create them. So now i want to roundup my thoughts with this call: go out and create as much as possible virtuous circles in your life and the lifes of others! If something doesn’t works at the first try go a bit simpler or smaller and try again. Talk out loud whenever you feel the idea of telling people about an idea for an energy loading interaction! Just go out and be the improvement you think the world needs.suche aktiv Engelskreislaufe in deinem Leben!

Which circles do you recognize in your life? Are there more positive or more negative ones? Were or are you able to influence them to a positive effect? How is it with others? Do you see what drives them around for good or bad? Have you already created self-aware a virtuous circle? Let us know how and what experiences you had by leaving a comment here!

Thanks for reading and have fun creating your own virtuous circles!

Sushi programming

Today i want to share a programming technique with you. My former fellow developer Felix and i tried it and had real good experiences while using it. (Damn, its a long time we didn’t worked together and i miss it!)

We named it sushi programming. I will explain later how we came to this name, the differences to Katas and Pair Programming and where we found pros and cons. Let’s keep things short and dive into the sushi bar!

How to do it?

We have two phases in sushi programming:

  1. the performance and
  2. the discussion

Let’s dive into the performance

The base philosophy behind “Sushi Programming” is to watch, and ONLY watch, note things, which will be discussed later. So we have one developer who is writing code with his normal IDE in the normal way he does this. Lets call him the author.

The other role is the audience, at minimum one other developer. The audience is only watching the author. It is important, that the audience in no circumstance (only a nuclear war or the lunch time should disturb us ;)) talks to each other or the author. No questions like “How did you get your IDE to automagically create this whole file?” or “Why don’t you use this fancy key combination to commit your code?”. The audience just writes remarkable things down. This phase should durate between 15 and 45 minutes. With shorter phases you won’t find enough new good or bad habits, with longer the amount of things will decrease.

In the second phase, called discussion, the audience and the author walk through the notes of the audience. Here all good habits swap around the team and the bad ones get out of the author. Rule of thumb is, that all points should be formulated respectfull and without a personal judgement. So only ask “How did you did that magic trick?” or “Do you know, that you could generate the getters/setters?”. I think it is important to write about this rule, cause it will keep the drama out of the discussion. The aim of this technique is to spread the given knowledge as much as possible in the team and increase everyones work quality and speed.

Differences to other techniques

Pair Programming

In pair programming you are allowed to talk all the time. This gives the software developers a better understanding of each other and the solution they build. With suhi programming we are aiming only at the habits of each other. Therefore the silence in the first phase is installed.

Peer Reviews

Peer reviews are either with one guy or with multiple guys. So whenever a piece of code, a software or UI design or an architecture is watched by a group of people, we can call it a peer review. The aim is slightly different from sushi programming: in peer reviews we want to improve the code at all. We should not mind who wrote the code, we just want to see, if it fits our quality standards and our understanding.

Code Katas

Code Katas are a great wy to learn things as a group. We sit together and work through a rigid plan of steps without thinking too deep while doing. The aim is to get a new habit into our muscle memory. For instance it is perfect to get into the Test Driven Development circle, if you never before used it. Or a new framework into your brain. This said, the aim is clearly close to sushi programming: train the new things.

Why the crazy name “Sushi Programming”?

I’m not sure where i got this information from and if it is true: i heard, if you want to become a sushi cook, you have to spend a certain time as a dish washer and as a waiter. This phase around your aimed work should give you the respect for the other activities and let you soak in the spirit of a sushi restaurant, like how to treat the food and the guests. This should beware you of doing the biggest mistakes in the everyday worklife over and over again. You’re filled with best practices before you even ram your first knive in the first fish. Soaking the spirit, for the learning developers, and spreading the spirit, for the master developers is a healthy habit in my eyes.

Pros and cons

  • the flow of the author isn’t broke by discussions – a big plus to get more knowledge moving from one to another individual
  • the author and the audience find more hidden treasures (a.k.a. IDE shortcuts or bad habits) in the everyday routines of the other than by Pair Programming
  • the team members get a deeper understanding of the used techniques
  • the team members get kwowing each other better, because they see each other finding solutions (hopefully they reflect their own too and thereby know themself better)
  • the team members train discussing techniques and routines without hurting personal feelings, which will be good for the team spirit
  • after a time only the knowledge of the team is spreaded, there is a “we don’t learn anthing new” if you do it too often, without developers from the outside of the team

Conclusion

For me it was a really useful habit to sometimes sushi program. Our team knowledge went up fast and it helped me and the others! So my recommendation is: try it yourself and have fun!

Did you liked the article or the idea? Do you feel the urge to propose a better name? Do you know, if it is part of becoming a suhsi cook to be dish washer and waiter first? Did you tried it yourself with some colleagues? What were your experiences? Than please leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Management 3.0: #1 Kudo Cards

You may have heard about the Management 3.0 system. It is a set of games, tools and practices, which helps managing oneself and organisations. In this little series i am explaining one by one some of these parts of the system and share my experiences with them. Lets dive right into the first part: the Kudo Cards!

Kudo Cards & Kudo Box

The Kudo Cards are a set of cards (you guessed it right ;)). On those cards some kind of compliment sentences are started and there are some empty lines to fill. Example compliments are “Well done …” or “Great job …”. Thats it. Your job is now to think of your colleagues and pick an event or quality which you really like and fill the empty space with your own words. Afterwards you can either hand it over directly or anonymously. For the anonymous way there is a Kudo Box. It is like a mailbox, where you can throw in your mail and then it is up to your organisation how to ritualise the handover. In our company we do it as one point to hand out the Kudo Card to the adressee. But he is free to only read it alone or to say thanks how he want.

Our Kudo Box with the great Kudo 2.0 QR Code Video Kudo Card.

My experience

When i introduced the Kudo Cards, i was just thinking, that they are a great idea. As i am, i handed my first set directly to the recipients and did not think about what they could think about it. So i didn’t installed a Kudo Box or a ritual, because in my eyes it was like positive things could be told face to face. Damn was i wrong. As a direct reaction to my announcement three guys came to me and asked why there is no Kudo Box. Asking them why they want one, brought up, that they are shy and don’t want to hand them directly. So our Kudo Box was born and the ritual was introduced, which made these shy ones happy.

To accelerate the usage of these ideas i started writing cards for the ones who deserved it before the company retrospective. Everyone who got one card was happy and proud in this moment. It was a great experience to see, what a little compliment in front of everybody else can do. Some where infected by the idea and also wrote compliments for others too. They mostly gave them directly or brought them to the desk when the recipient wasn’t there. One great idea was a “Kudo Card 2.0” with a QR code. Behind the QR code was a link to a YouTube video with an old german ad celebrity telling you what a marvelous colleague you are. At the moment the Kudo Cards are somehow in a hibernation. Since more than two months there is no card in our box. But i don’t stop to remind my colleagues and hold up the ritual of opening the Kudo Box while the company retrsopective.some gave the Kudo Cards directly to each other some over the Kudo Box

Conclusion

First of all i really love the Kudo Cards. Having a little positive wall near my desk keeps up my moral and helps over heavy situations! This experiment helped me learning things too! First a real obvious one: not everybody is as extrovert as me with compliments and feedback. Second they last much longer than the short term experience of a spoken compliment. Don’t get me right, if there’s something working well your rule of thumb should be to speak it out loud as fast as you can. Last but not least there is a big influence of just having this instrument in your company, organisation or tribe towards a positive way of thinking. Only some cards make a difference for those who get them. They walk around with a better mood for a while and give this happiness into a virtuos circle.

I absolutely recommend Kudo Cards for you! ūüôā

Do you have any experiences or want to say anything about this topic? Just leave a comment, thanks for reading!

User Stories

Everybody who came in touch with Scrum or Agile heard about them, many used them and still there is confusion of what it is and how the Best Practices look like: you’re right, i am talking about User Stories! For the easier writing of this blog post i am talking only about Scrum here. But it fits to other Agile methologies too. Lets dive into the topic!

From theoretical point of view, a User Story is a requirement. User Stories are a subset of requirements. User Stories have a common look and feel, also called a common structure. There are mutiple kinds of structure for User Stories in the english wikipedia article described. Here i will take this classical style:

As … (role/persona) i can … (what) so that … (value/benefit).

For more clarity lets have a look at some easy examples:

  1. As Administrator i can manage users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries into the database.
  2. As User i can find web pages easily according to key words so that i do not have to rely on web pages which i or my coworkers already know.

As you see, this examples are a bit open. They leave space for the how to reach the goal exactly in many ways: there is no exact description how the user interface has to look, there is nothing said about how to reach the goal technically and finally it is not said how the user is guided to reaching his goal. As a good product owner you leave this level of granularity in your user stories until the team decides to be a bit more detailed to reach several goals:

  1. first of all you want to compare business value of your features, so you want to assure, that no technical or other solution detail distracts you while talking to stakeholders about “What’s more valuable for you, feature A or feature B?”
  2. than there is the part, that the team should be involved as the solution experts they are in the refinement and solution definition.

The first point helps you to keep a vivid Product Backlog. Also it helps the whole Scrum Team to focus (one of the Agile Values) on things which are important. Also it helps you and your Scrum Team to only do the preparation work necessary for the next upcoming Sprints. You don’t want to have a huge set of fully refined User Stories. As you may already have realized, the world sometimes changes. And so the markets do too. Some markets change really fast. The User Story you’ve written today can be invalid in a year or even a month. Or it could be, that it has to be changed on a non-trivial base. So it costs you and your company time, energy and money to maintain a big, fully refined Product Backlog. Somebody will be in a situation where she is remembering that one ticket/User Story which is nearly what is now under debate. But it is hard to find! Once in a while somebody needs to clean up and walk through all the User Stories and decide if they are valid any longer. With valid here is ment if they are not done yet or they are not longer the need of the customer. So my advise to you: there are better things to do with your time than maintaining millions of future maybe items! You’re here (in your company ;)) for only one thing: create value for your customers!

The second point helps the individuals in the team to feel connected to the solution they build. If they are involved early and can freely design the how, they have not only influence on what is going on, they really shape their work. With this said they can feel more self-efficient. And who is not feeling better, if she can build her own surrounding and decide how its done. For the why it doesn’t¬†matter if team members are free to find the best fitting User Experience or the technical solution, both things should lay in the teams decision circle.

Properties of good User Stories

Another good hint into the direction of great User Stories is the “INVEST in Good Stories and SMART tasks“. The things proposed there are a good true north and ment more as a best practice. Often you find different definitions of the letters of the acronyms, so i decided to give you both words in case i heard of them. Lets have a short look what the acronyms meen.

Good User Stories should be:

  • Independent – the perfect set of Stories has no dependency, so we can implement tham in the order we decide. Unluckily it is not always possible…
  • Negotiable/Negotiated – the User Story of our dreams is not finally fixed and not very detailed. We are allowed to leave solution details open.
  • Valuable – that one is easy and hard together: we need value for at least one customer. Without customer value, we should not think about writing down a single letter or loose time and money.
  • Estimable – we need Stories, for which we are able to write down a number. Hopefully it is a Story Point ;)! Seriously: if we can’t say at least “This Story is as big/complex/risky as that Story.” or “This Story is bigger/more complex/riskier than that Story”, we are not able to compare the User Stories. That hinders us from being able to decide how a good Plan for the next Sprints looks like.
  • Small – a story is best, if it is not too big. The size described here is ment in two meanings: the story should be doable in few weeks by one person and it should fit on one card. The few weeks restriction helps us to keep the estimations for the User Stories realistic. The bigger the story, the wider the range of not hitting the real corridor with the estimation. To restrain the written size of the story helps us to not use a whole concept instead of a User Story. It forces us to break down bigger stories and Epics (very big User Stories, our example number one could be one) into fitting ones.
  • Testable – we need realistic stories. One way to achieve this is to think about how the story could be tested. If you have no idea, how you could test the story, than the chances are high, that your User Story is somehow not clear. Sometimes it is likely, that you have non-functional requirements. For example you want your application to be high performant or as small as possible. This things can be added as acceptance criterias like this: “the application should be live usable” or “the application should fit in 5 megabyte”.

Good Tasks should be :

  • Specific – hmm, that one is easy and hard at the same time: the tasks in a User Story should not be “design” or “implement”. That should be done latest in the Sprint Planning. They should be something like “implement the method save of the user controller”. So you see, we need very granular information what should be done here. Important side note: the team should decide what tasks to do, not the Product Owner or the Scrum Master. The later one can and should point out better ways and should not let the team get away with the given weaknesses. But he never should force the team to one specific solution.
  • Measurable – the example from the last point is very good measurable: either the method is implemented or not. “Fix the bugs” is a bit harder to measure. This comes from its unspecific formulation. Which bugs are ment? All known? All existing? Only a subset like “the new introduced”? Here the measurable is often tied to the “specific” property.
  • Achievable/Attractive – here we have two properties in the smart acronym, which point to slightly different directions. On one side a task should be doable in one Sprint and overall, that’s what we call achievable. On the other hand it should be meaningful for the customer, the team or the company. So there should be a sense behind everything we do.
  • Relevant/Realistic – this is another two-sided part of the smart acronym. As the attractive of the last letter, the relavant is pointing to the sense. We don’t want to have useless work done. This would be also called a waste of time and money. So we focus on relevant things. The realistic is somehow pointing to the achievable. With a task like “make the rendering of the finished, postprocessed animation movie happen in under a second” will not be reachable without huge preprocessing or huge computing power.
  • Time-boxed – There should always be the wish to finish the task in a given time. In Scrum this is easy: we want the User Stories done in this Sprint. Therefor all their subtasks and all other tasks should be finished in the Sprint too. Hopefully your Sprints are time-boxed too :)!

Now we have seen how the User Stories and tasks should look like. Lets take a short step into why, when and how to split things. As often the aim is to reach a reasonable granularity. We want our stories as small as necessary. This helps us to get to the point where we can estimate them very accurate. On the other side we don’t want to break them into too small pieces. So we want them as big as possible, to not have to deal with five thousand User Stories per Sprint, which is in the most environments a huge administration overhead.

How to refine User Stories

How can we go from the first version of our User Story to an adequate, good-sized final version? About that topic you can find plenty (quick) guides and advices spread all over the web. I like the Quick Reference Guide for Splitting User Stories from the agilelearninglabs for its conciseness and its powerful tools. It is a good starting point for a best practise for your team. It consists of these steps:

  1. Split, when you see conjunctions (and, or,…).
  2. Replace generic words with specific ones.
  3. Write down acceptance criteria, they:
    • are pass/fail conditions, that prove story is done or not
    • can become smaller stories
  4. Do a timeline analysis:
    • pretend the story is done
    • What sequence of events happen while the usage?
    • each event can be an own, smaller story

Lets go through this steps with the example User Story #1. You don’t have to scroll up all the way again, here we have it again:

As Administrator i can manage users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries into the database.

First question of a team member could be “What is ment with manage Users?”. As you see, in the first iteration we skipped the step one, cause there is no conjunction, and proceeded with step two. The Product Owner can answer now “create, edit and delete Users”. So we end up with the

As Administrator i can create, edit and delete users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries into the database.

Now we have the conjunction “and” and are able to split the Story into three smaller ones:

  • As¬†Administrator i can create users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries¬†into the database.
  • As¬†Administrator i can edit users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries¬†into the database.
  • As¬†Administrator i can delete users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries¬†into the database.

For brevity we only look at the third story from here on. It has no conjunctions and deleting is not very generic. Now we can proceed with the third step. An acceptance criteria could be as following: “the user is permanently unavailable from the whole system”. The team members can now ask, if they should remove the user completely from the database (step four starts: timeline analysis). Than the Product Owner can ask his lawyer and answer that the user data have to be stored for the timespan X and afterwards should be deleted completely. With that information the story can for example be refined to¬†

As Administrator i can delete users in the backend so that i do not have to insert SQL queries into the database.

Acceptance criteria:

  • the data of the user isn’t removed when the user is deleted
  • the data of the user is kept for at least for the timespan X after deletion
  • after the timespan X after the deletion of a user the data are automatically and completely

For now this one looks well defined and razor sharp.

Another example splitting

Lets have a look at the second example User Story. Here it is again

As User i can find web pages easily according to key words so that i do not have to rely on web pages which i or my coworkers already know.

The first refinement step, looking for conjunctions is not getting us further. There is only one between “i or my coworkers”. So we go directly to the generic word “find“. Here we can split the Story into the search and the results display like this (for brevity we leave the benefit in an abbreviated form):

As User i can¬†insert my key words easily for a web search¬†so that i do not have to …

As User i can¬†view the result web pages easily¬†according to my key words¬†so that i do not have to …

A short note: if we oversee the generic word find, we could and would come to the same result in the timeline analysis in the fourth step. Back to the next step: the acceptance criteria. Lets clarify them only for the third story:

As User i can¬†view the result web pages easily¬†according to my key words¬†so that i do not have to …

Acceptance criteria:

  • the searched key words are written prominently on the result page
  • the result web pages are listed with a link and a short description

Lets go with the timeline analysis. While thinking of the users timeline, for me two things pop up. Firstly i am not sure if all the billions of maybe results should show up and secondly i am not sure, if the result page should be immediately shown or if there can be a link send by email when things are ready. Asking our virtual Product Owner brings us to this additional two acceptance criteria:

  • the web page is loaded in realtime (< half a second)
  • the result web pages are paginated results per page

Lets have a look at the complete User Story:

As User i can¬†view the result web pages easily¬†according to my key words¬†so that i do not have to …

Acceptance criteria:

  • the web page is loaded in realtime (< half a second)
  • the result web pages are paginated results per page
  • the searched key words are written prominently on the result page
  • the result web pages are listed with a link and a short description

The acceptance criteria can become new User Stories. Here the first sounds really like a huge thing (not forgetting to scan the whole web ;)) and should be extracted to standalone User Story.

Lets have a look on the INVEST properties with the result User Story:

  • Independent: the “maybe extracted” realtime story is not independent of the view results web pages story, which is not independent of the insert key words story… we have sometimes to deal with that.
  • Negotiable: all the result User Stories in this example seem for me to be¬†
  • Valuable: overall for every result User Story there is the value given by the why of the first one. Sure it can be written more clearly, but for demonstration it is enough to have it a bit raw here.
  • Estimable: the two result User Stories (inserting the key words and viewing the results) can be estimated. They are not vague. The realtime story carries a huge risk: we don’t know what we have to do to reach this. That one is nearly unestimable.
  • Small: like in the estimable point the two result User Stories fit the small condition too. Also the realtime User Story is here not really tangibly.¬†
  • Testable: for our result User Stories we can write real easy acceptance/front end tests. Also for the realtime User Story those tests are written easily and fast.

As you already realized, this User Stories describe the Google internet search page. The stunning part is, that we have enough space for the how part. The main benefit of this is, that the Team now has the freedom to ask questions about the wished solution, can be creative in the how and feel really connected to what they build. With this benefit we reach a situation, where they can go deep into being proud: they helped the organization to build something which gives value to the world. And i guess i don’t have to tell you that people with a why and allowed to build it how they want, tend to stay longer intrinsic motivated. So it is a real profit for the customers, the organization and the team.

Conclusion

We looked at what a User Story is, how good ones look like and how to refine them in an easy process. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty other descriptions all over the web. For instance Richard Lawrence wrote a stunning article about Patterns for Splitting User Stories. I personally have good experience with the techniques i presented here to you. I love how concise and easy they are. For me they are best practices and i found them useful to start with and afterwards reflect what is fitting better to the team and the surrounding.

 

Agile Conferences/Camps/…

This is a list of all conferences, camps, gatherings and come-togethers i stumbled upon over the years. It is not complete in any way and is only here for finding them later and (hopefully) for your inspiration!

(Agile) Games

I was really excited when i discovered “Magic Maze” at the Agile Coach Camp Germany 2018. The game is a real fun way to understand each other and the planning factor. Later in this year i stumbled upon “The Mind”. There the key is to find a common … hey, i really shouldn’t tell this secret here! It is a real great way to find a common feeling in the team. And on top it is strange how you feel (and later on loose the feeling, just to recover it again) the spirit and the mind in this game. I am overwhelmed and recommend this game for team building too.

For a bigger variety of games and more experience in social games i started to search communities in my nearer surrounding (around 100km around my hometown Freiburg in Germany)… and i found a great thing in Basel: the play14 chapter in Basel. Play14 was founded cause they were motivated by the “hey, the play4agile is booked”-shock and did not just wanted to complain. It is inbetween a movement and an unconference, where people show up and talk about how to play and actually play games.

play14-movement, copyrights at play14
play14-movement, copyrights at play14

Overall i am really happy, that i found the games, the fitting community for them and so much fun in bringing some laughter beside the bad jokes (ok, some are really great) into our offices.

Do you know some more great games? And some conventions, (un-)conferences or whatever format for playing and games?

Let me and the rest of the world know it by leaving a comment! Thanks and have a beautiful day!

Book review: the dip

In this book review i will tell you a bit about one of the books of the great Seth Godin. You never heard of Seth Godin? Then you have a task to find out who he is! (For all the guys who have not much time: he is not only one of the marketing gurus, for me he is the marketing guru. He brings whisdom and razor sharp conclusions into books which lift you up and tell you how to go and where to go and why to go or stay… sounds good? Its worth!)

Now we’ve set the stage for some parts of whisdom we can extract from the book: it is named after the key concept, which Godin is gifting us:¬†the dip. Sounds clear and easy? Lets come to the explanation! Whenever you face a situation where you could quit, there are mainly three different curves you could find yourself in: the dip, the dead-end road and the cliff.

The dip

The dip is the point after the easy starting days, before everything pays off. After you learned a bit of a new language. Lets assume you are new to asian languages and go for it by trying to learn mandarin. After the easy first words for daily usage, you will somewhen come to the idea to learn some letters. And than it gets hard. You realize, that there are over 100.000 letters in mandarin. Okay, for daily usage its enough to know around 3.000. Which is nicer, but also hard to learn, if you’re a mediocre european, who never learned an eastern asian language. So after the first words you wake up in a situation, where you know how much work it will be to be able to have a normal exchange of letters with a friend in mandarin. This is the dip. The motivation and results curve is going down. And it can stay on this bottom for a tremendous time, until it gets better and you see more results. Its like the desert walk, and after two days you finally reach something like an oasis. The good point about it is, that there is a better time afterwards. The bad part, on the other side, is, that you have to go through the dip, to have more and better results.

Other curves

Beside the dip Godin named two other curves: the dead-end and the cliff. The dead-end, or cul-de-sac, is a situation, where you find yourself investing time and it doesn’t change anything. It is like the famous fight against the windmills or the Sisyphos stone. You can try harder and harder and end up always in the same spot as before. Often this is the case in smaller companies: you can reach a certain carreer level and thats it. You will not climb higher there, even if you buy certificates (ahem, i ment improve yourself). This can have several reasons. It could be, that you reached the level under the CEO and he is not giving more too you. Or there could be an overflow of guys on your level. Often only one gets the chance to climb a step further, the rest stays there. Sometimes even all the willing guys don’t get a chance: some extern dude gets the job. Sounds tragic, but its a dead-end, which will not lead you anywhere.

The dead-end is the better curve of the “other curves”. The other one Godin talks about explicit is the cliff. The cliff is, as you expect, a situation, where you see it coming: the tragic end. You literally know, that it can’t end well. For instance if the sales of the company decrease month by month and nothing in the strategy changes. Your company is maybe on a sinking ship branch of economy, like mass production of carriages when the first cars evolved. Or you find yourself in a company, which isn’t caring, what any of the customers want and the product is only fulfilling requirements nobody needs. In the best case these example companies get bought by some other company because of the employees or some other assets. The worst case is that they go bancrupt. If you’re like me, you don’t want to waste your time in those environments.

Another curve Godin points out is the market distribution. As also described in “The Long Tail” he tells, that the biggest fish in the market segment gets plenty times more of the revenue than the number two and number three combined. In the long tail they focus on the niches, on the number ten till to the end of the market. Godins viewpoint is, that you should always look for being number one in the world. Just for having the chance to get two or three times more than number two and three combined. Than you can build a dip on your own for new competitors. If this is to hard, you can focus on a part of your market or change the market complete. The latter is a bigger risk than going deeper in a part of your market.

Is it a dip? And if so: what’s next?

Godin gives some tips on how to find out in what kind of curve you are at the moment. For instance in the end of the book is a list of questions, which helps reflecting yourself, your life and your carreer. Very powerful! But the point which really excited me was that he comes up with an easy, but really cool change of the viewpoint. You should think before you even start and decide what¬†quitting conditions you set. Before you start you can think about what benefits you will have behind the dip. If there are plenty of benefits, you can decide, if they are worth the invest. If they are worth the invest, you can think about, if they are really worth for you or if there is something else giving more benefit to you and your plans. With this little steps you seperate the unthought and fast forgotten starts of a new hobby (how many guys do you know with once used skis, dumbells or things like this?) from the real beneficial things. For everything which sounds cool, but is not giving you a thrill for at least a year, isn’t worth starting. A big point to not start and quit stupidly everything which comes in your mind, you decide while starting when to quit and why to quit. So everytime you decide to give a new hobby a try, you give yourself the conditions when you allow yourself to quit. For example: my decision to blog again has the conditions, that i would quit, if i don’t find anyone reading my blog constantly in a year. Than it makes no sense to blog in public and i can go to a private blog/diary and save time by not watching my style and grammer and switch to my mother language german. With fixing the quitting scenario you bound yourself to the new hobby or passion until you find yourself behind the dips. This prevents you from quitting in panic. Because you can directly go to your conditions to quit for this thing and (wo)man up by saying “ok, its (a bit) hard right now, but i can’t allow myself to quit now”. I really like this idea to define front up what circumstances you would allow to drive you away from the new part in your live.

So the way to not quit unthought in a dip goes over the clever starting, defining the conditions to quit before starting and deciding to do all this more aware than up to now.

Overall for me the book the dip¬†is a diamond. It is full of wisdom and thouht-provoking impulses. Thats the big value. It is short, concise and really fun to read. You really want to read “only” this next chapter. And another one. And than it is over and you know: i will read it again, to be sure, that i don’t forget everything in a blink. This conciseness and fun are the polish of the diamond Seth Godin gave us with this little book. An absolute must read for everyone who really want to live more aware and push all his or her games to the next levels. Thanks for not quitting to read this long article!

Think on different organizational layers

When i started to learn about Scrum, it was a great mind opening pleasure for me to have some easy rules combined with a set of values and best practices. Over the years seeing multipe more or less agile surroundings it got crystal clear to me, that without the management support Scrum can only work in a small scale. At best on team level. But often without a good environment its doomed to only give some team members an inner peace. With this differentiation somehow i started to look for habitats where everone is convinced to go with a process. But this was not all what popped up in my mind. After a while i realized, that there are more layers than a person and a team. Sure, its really obvious, but here’s the observation:

  • teams are composed of team members,
  • departments are composed of teams,
  • companies are composed of departments,
  • companies have partners,
  • companies have customers,
  • companies have competitors in markets and
  • last, but not least, there is the rest of the world.

What can we do with this list of layers as for instance as a Scrum Master? First of it all it helped me reflect my (re-)actions. So whenever i get a question from any team member, i try not to answer immediately. I started to ask myself things like:

  • What would be best for this team member?
  • What would be best for the team of this guy?
  • … and so o, up to the whole universe

This little thoughts made my answers more holistic and helped to build a better environment. The next step i am going with these questions is, that i start to open the minds of my team members and colleagues by asking them back. So if somebody asks me “I see, that XYZ is happening between colleague A and colleague B. I feel the urge to do something about it! What should i do and where should i start?”, than i can ask him back

  • “What would be best for your team?” followed by
  • “What would be best for your department?”
  • and so on…

Twice i already remembered to go this way. The interesting point was, that the questioner came out of the mind of doing things for the sake of doing things into a state to deeply think in a bigger scale. The best part about it was, that both persons understood the problem better and saw how hard it will be to find a good solution. As you recognize, i am not talking about the best solution, because you never know, what would be really best to do. Sometimes there are only bad solution and you’re doomed to find the least bad solution. But with the knowledge, that there are many solutions i find myself often giving more valuable answers than before or i even lead by questions.