Agile 2012 Day 2 Review

Agile 2012Day 2 of the Agile 2012 conference in Dallas, here are my notes.

Keynote: Scaling Up Excellence. Mindsets, Decisions and Principles

This keynote was delivered by Bob Sutton, author of a number of business books including “Good Boss, Bad Boss” and “The No Asshole Rule“. A similar presentation to the one he delivered is available here.

From Agile 2012
  • organisations have centres of excellence – how do you spread it from the few to the many without screwing it up? (examples – Hendrick Motorsports growing from 2 to 4 teams, McDonalds opening 1,460 stores in China)
  • shared mindset (what people should and should not do) is crucial to scaling up – Apple has a secrecy mindset, Amazon has an openness mindset, so there is no one right way
  • a mindset is required to be successful at Agile – going to a talk or reading a book is not enough, you need to grind out the message and do the same thing day after day and live by it (Facebook – employee on boarding is a six week bootcamp where they work on 12-13 short projects, focus is to inject people into the mindset and determine their best fit at the organisation)
  • the never ending danger is that things might go bad (Onward Memo by Howard Schultz – growth of Starbucks from 1,000 to 13,000 stores, in the rush to get a huge footprint, the mindset got watered down – got excited by growth and left the excellence behind)

Choice Point 1 – More vs Better

  • strategic tradeoff
  • voltage loss – things get lost in the translation, sometimes this is worth it because it is half as good as the best but twice as good as it is now
  • learning curve problem – takes people a while to get good when spreading knowledge from the few to the many
  • overload problem – burden of the management team in trying to maintain momentum

Choice Point 2 – Alone vs With Others

  • collaborate with competitors (Glad Press ‘N’ Seal), open source is one extreme, do it alone is the other (everybody at Pixar is an employee, nothing is outsourced

Choice Point 3 – Catholicism vs Buddhism (Replication vs Localisation)

  • roll out to the masses or a central set of beliefs
  • cranking out clones – works in manufacturing like Intel plants, Sees Candy and In-N-Out Burger either work in a market or not (pull out if not)
  • replication trap problem – Home Depot is a DIY model and when they rolled it out in China it did not work in their culture
  • localised solution – Buddhist approach to tweak just as much as needed to make it work

Scaling Principles

  • link hot causes to cool solutions – fire up contagious emotions first, humans are irrational, to motivate people get them emotionally cranked up (but the danger is that they get angry) so need to have a solution to cool their energy (watermelon offensive at Stanford for bike safety involved smashed watermelons and subsidized helmets or the first all-hands meeting at Apple after Steve Job’s return where the share price was not good so Jobs declared war on Dell and charged up people to make Apple great or get out)
  • live a mindset, just don’t talk about it – do actions that are consistent with the direction you want them to go, what we tell them doesn’t matter it is what they do that counts
  • when in doubt, cut it out – reduce cognitive load but deal with necessary complexity (A.G. Lafley keep it “Sesame Street simple”, Baba Shiv experiments on cognitive load for 2 vs 7 digit numbers), go simpler when trying to sell a message
    • when systems get larger and more complex, you need to deal with the complexity – Ben Horowitz “give ground grudgingly”, add people and processes only when things start to break down
    • Hackman’s rule for teams – over 6 people problems arise, more than 10 you are really in trouble, optimum is 4-6 people, Navy Seals and fire teams have 4-5 people, any more is more complicated
    • Dunbar’s number is 150 (100 to 230) – the cognitive number of relationships we can manage, pirate ships only have about 100 pirates per ship before dividing, Twitter average is about 100-200 followers
    • as the team gets bigger you spend more time on the dynamics and less time doing the job
  • little things pack a big wallop – subtle cues mobilise mindsets – design things that people barely notice but have a huge impact on their behaviour (background music, language, smells and sounds affect people’s behaviours)
    • Kathleen Vohs money research – people are less likely to ask for help or give help, will work alone when money is the object – leads to selfishness and self sufficiency
    • think about the little cues you are sending
  • connect people and cascade excellence – get one group to mentor the next to spread the excellence, grow your own replacement to get a promotion (Zynga), make your initial group diverse because more variation will give you a bigger impact
  • the mindset is the steering wheel and incentives are the juice – money is an incentive but so are pride and shame, how can I embarrass them or how can I make them proud (using mimes to mimic jaywalkers, Ben Horowitz fines people $10 a minute they are late for a meeting – it is not the money that motivates them it is the embarrassment, gets them to pay him on the spot!)
  • don’t put up with destructive beliefs and behaviours – bad is stronger than good, bad behaviours are ingrained more deeply, to spread excellence you need to stop the behaviours, bad behaviours are 5x worse than the good, destructive team members that can’t be reformed can bring down performance by 30% to 40% because you spend more time dealing with them rather than the work (Barry Feld of Cost Plus World Market would look for two things when visiting a store – greeting me and the customers and are the bathrooms clean)

Traps

  • don’t mistake swarming for scaling – raising awareness is not enough
  • too fast, too far – when people say they want to scale quick and fast, they are looking for the easy way (you are fighting a ground war not an air war)

When scaling you need to be master of addition and subtraction. – everytime you add something good, you need to remove unnecessary and bad things to make way for the good.

I also wrote an article on this session for InfoQ.

Why Agile Needs More Cowboys

Mike Griffiths presented this talk, his slides are available here.

From Agile 2012
  • do you ever see cowboys looking after cows?
  • real cowboys protect the herd, select the lead, direct into natural flows
  • agile is humanistic rather than mechanistic, so is leadership – manage property and lead people
  • “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality” (Warren Bennis)
  • levels of maturity (Stephen Covey) – dependent -> independent -> interdependent
  • leadership is the next step beyond management – to a soft skills focus
  • productivity – undermining / resistance -> passive compliance -> active participation -> committed dedication -> passive innovation – move up the scale with good leadership
  • model desired behaviour – same attributes of a good leader are modeled over many years and in different countries – honest (will not knowingly follow someone who is dishonest), forward looking (describe the future state), competent (don’t want to be embarrassed by our leader), inspiring (The Leadership Challenge), a leader needs to shield the team, remove impediments, carry food and water and re-communicate the vision
  • communicate a vision – like driving in fog, without clear vision you need to slow down, clear direction allows focussed effort and speed, Jim Highsmith’s kick off meeting vision exercise, reinforce the vision frequently
  • create a learning and sharing environment – “if you have two hands to work with and you use one to cover your butt, you only have on hand left to work with”, set an example and admit mistakes and share information, ask questions of your team, make it OK to discuss the bad stuff
  • share information / power – agile tools allow move from micro management to navigation and communication
  • fostering functional accountability – accept that conflict is good, Patrick Lencioni on The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
  • importance of the team – COCOMO Estimation model (Barry Boehm) shows that people factors has a multiplication factor of 33 (there is a 10x difference on good people over good process)
  • challenging the status quo – retrospective, “areas for improvement” works better in some cultures over “what didn’t work well”, retrospective action wheel, gathering lessons learned is one of the most frequently dropped agile practices
  • innovation and learning – if people are trying hard, then mistakes don’t really matter, Toyota collects lots of ideas with small incentives rather than one big idea
  • encouraging each other – treat people as volunteers, paying people just incentivises people to show up but volunteers are passionate, say thank you and why you are thanking them and what the benefit was, celebrate interim goals frequently, at the end is too little too late
  • shared leadership – aiming for teams of competent leaders (“Project Leadership” by Jeffrey Pinto)

I also interviewed Mike Griffiths for InfoQ.

Leading Conflict: A Systems Intelligence Approach to Conflict Facilitation for Leaders

This workshop presented by Michael Spayd and Lyssa Adkins was one of the highlights of the conference for me. The key takeaway for me was that “everyone is right… partially!” The slides are available here.

From Agile 2012

The workshop started with a discussion on the conflict we see on teams and then about why we came to the session and what we had hoped to get out of it.

  • systems oriented leadership – structured, holistic, organic, complex, end to end – move from the work level to a birds eye view
  • relationship systems intelligence – we are all in relationships – personal, work, departments
  • the human system is not in alignment with what agile does, leadership begins inside
  • see conflict through the right view – the right view leads to the right action, everyone is right partially, self organisation happens when all perspectives are represented, conflict is something trying to change in a system and not a problem to be managed

We then had a discussion around what is the benefit of the right view, is it difficult?

  • what is the difference between finding someone wrong as to finding someone right – go and hunt out why they are right
  • container – not necessarily physical but made up of behaviours, norms and culture of the team and environment

We then did an informal constellation exercise – 20 people in a circle, put the subject on a piece of paper in the middle, make a statement if it is true stand close, if not true stand away then ask those in the constellation what it means to you, need to talk from experience not what you think, remember people are right partially (take a soft focus). It is called a constellation because it looks like a star in the sky, speak from your experience, only people who wish to speak should

From Agile 2012
  • container – culture of the team, want to raise level of positivity and decrease level of negativity and toxicity, educate team about conflict and team agreement about digging into it
  • positivity and team performance – continue to abdicate your position is bad, needs to be balanced with inquiry – “not sure I agree with you, but tell me more”
  • all teams have an emotional bank account – positive interactions are a deposit and negative interactions are withdrawals, what is positive for your team and what is “flipping the asshole bit”
  • build the container – positivity vs productivity
                Happy camp     |    Insanely great
Productivity    ---------------+-------------------
                Prison camp    |    Sweat shop         
                           Positivity
  • emotional withdrawals – blaming, defensiveness, stonewalling, contempt, excessive advocacy – contempt is most prevalent on software projects
  • emotional deposits – appreciations (noticing people doing little things, in front of the group), acknowledgements, more inquiry and less advocacy
  • never praise people for the work they do, but for who they are, turn up acknowledgements and turn down appreciations
  • appreciative inquiry – look at the strengths of teams

We then had a discussion around our teams positive /negative ratio

  • dealing with cultural conflict – inquiry openness, use my land your land ” in my land we…, what happens in your land?”
  • teams move around the quadrants – prison camp is not sustainable, happy camp and sweat shop are intolerant
  • conflict protocols – team needs to come to consensus, leader needs to take a facilitator / coach role – what is the environment and behaviour we want when we are in conflict, everybody’s job is to call out the protocols when needed, not enforce them
  • be a facilitator – more helpful than resolving it, keep reviewing the right view beliefs (fake it till you make it), understand your triggers
  • process the conflict – reframe the conflict” “I wonder what this conflict is trying to tell us”
  • don’t want debate or vote, a prelude to a discussion to find out what’s true
  • we get triggered by people who are like us who exhibit behaviours we don’t like
  • Getting to Yes – Roger Fisher
  • to hear from silent others, ask “lets hear from those who have not not spoken” and then be silent

I was lucky enough to interview Michael and Lyssa with Shane Hastie for InfoQ.

The Product Owner Role is a Stupid Idea: Improving How We Handle Customer Requests

Jeff Patton is always entertaining, and I was not disappointed with this session. I would hope that his slides get published at some stage.

From Agile 2012

He kicked off the session with a live poll by getting the audience to answer the question “what goes wrong with product ownership” and then got everyone to move around the room based on experience, how well the product owner works (they don’t correlate!), internal versus external product development and the ability to change products

  • why is there a difference between developers and customers?
  • single product owners don’t work – whole teams own products
  • processes aren’t designed for success (including Agile ones)
  • safety isn’t success – Nordstromare a big successful company so they have lots of rigour around their process, nothing innovative gets through the net, so they built an innovation lab
    • waterfall model – step after step models have no feedback, Royce was trying to explain why it was a bad idea, experts have been trying to tell us why this is bad since the 70’s, traditional development models are safe
    • agile is the new waterfall – product owner creates stuff and gives it to someone else – someone to blame like the preceding process in waterfall
  • velocity isn’t value – being great at delivering software using agile then you should realise that it doesn’t matter, if we build more shit we just have more shit, we are not here to build software we are here to change the world, everything that happens (outcome) is after delivery, so need to maximize this, difficult to measure
  • underpants gnomes – a meme for something people are building but have no idea why
  • to get value you must form a hypothesis on how you’ll get it – this is the first shift companies need to make – how will we measure the output
  • one balanced team not client vendor – if we want to fail we can probably fail cheaper abroad
  • ideal product should be valuable, usable and feasible, product manager understands the value, UX or BA understands the usable, lead engineer understands the feasible, this is a balanced team – how should we build it, will they use it and how much will it cost
  • working as a team of comakers, we need to do a lot of mind reading, visibility is not good enough, shared understanding is what we are striving for
  • discovery complements delivery, morale suffers when we just build stuff, the thrill is seeing how well it works and debating the results and planning the next approach
  • story maps describe outcomes that we are shooting for
  • personas – don’t necessarily need to be accurate documentation but facilitate shared understanding
  • need face time with real people to understand, go watch people work to learn, then build models to map what you learnt (experience or journey map), when users explain a problem that should trigger an idea, share product story or product as part of a regular internal tradeshow
  • we need to understand the problems and find solutions to get us there, MVP (minimal viable product) should be the least we can build to solve a particular problem,
  • a newer version of MVP is lean startups (build -> measure -> learn) MVPe, smallest viable experiment so that we can learn and eventually earn
  • ready for release board – for each card, an explicit measure step and metrics, then before it leaves the board they need to learn
  • Nordstrom Innovation Lab learning loop – Replace the Mirrors – look for the number of learning loops, no idea on their velocity but we know how much they learned, just budget for learning – “life is better here, even though we fail most of the time”
  • you fail most of the time at predicting outcomes and getting value (Marty Cagan – Inspired)
  • making good product decisions is hard, focus on how fast we learn and how fast we get things out there
  • don’t focus on velocity and worry about who’s fault it is, focus on the things that matter

To succeed:

  • adjust your head – get out of the old client vendor model, be less like a waiter and more like a doctor and solve problems
  • take on the persona of a music producer – listen to bad music and help make others ideas better
  • be the film director – focus on the talent of the people you are working with, give direction and passion without stealing ownership

Industry Analyst Panel Discussion

I sat in the first 40 or so minutes of this discussion. Unfortunately, the room was so packed and the panel was not elevated so it was very hard to determine who was saying what. The panelists were Tom Grant from ForresterThomas Murphy from GartnerMelinda Ballou from IDC and Christopher Rommel from VDC.

  • should we stop focussing on agile adoption?
    • disagree – fewer people to execute, focus on importance, deliver benefits quickly, tackle issues like mobile and embedded
    • agree – not about how many people are doing this or certifications, there are plenty of problems to solve, a foregone conclusion, let’s tackle the bigger issues, adoption is superficial metric, plenty of challenges beyond pure software development
  • can you define ALM?
    • no agreed definition, lean concept of flow, includes the tools and processes
    • typically think about standard phases but the end to end lifestyle doesn’t work, now need to look at DevOps and cloud now, more complicated to deploy now
    • ALM tools are a misnomer, output of SDLC, fundamental issues with tools currently, we do not develop and done any more, need to start thinking about products and products have lifecycles
    • going forward will be more about traceability of past development and operations
    • worst thing is the name
  • what should we call ALM instead?
    • Application Lifestyle Context
    • Gartner are talking about this internally
    • nirvana…, once the new taxonomy is decided it will be antiquated, we are here to improve!
    • dynamic end to end process, software lasts decades longer than we expect it too, needs to sustain life
    • ripple effects of agile disrupts it
  • Gartner’s prediction of 80% of software development teams doing agile by 2012, where are we?
    • at least 80% of all IT organisations have some agile and 20% of large organisations, on everyone’s mind, businesses are talking about it, will probably still be another 10 years because big change takes that long
    • estimate that 40% of organisations are using agile, has blown past all the other methodologies, businesses realised recently that they’re not innovating
  • are we seeing issues with organisations part doing agile and part traditional?
    • often the only way organisations are initially successful, different processes (eg. software and embedded), needs to rolled out staggered and incremental
    • fair adoption in development teams, but now what does it mean to be a tester, lots of centres of excellence still exist, Facebook deploying every 25 mins scares the heck out of most traditional organisations, companies need to get to the right fit
    • majority of Agile teams are not purely Agile, use water-scrum-fall, slimming down requirements and deployments is not sprinting, Facebook analogy does not fly with corporate clients
    • need to begin where people are, approach what is the best for the organisation and adjust for the context
  • how do you measure effectiveness of Agile methods and compare them?
    • prefer not to speak about methods but rather patterns and practices, compare using customer satisfation, ROI long term for the organisation, organisations still like function points delivered because it is easier to count
    • one of the biggest pluses is on quality and that is subjective and hard to measure, metrics that can point like customer satisfaction, rework and defect counts, time to market also better, it is often a leap of faith
    • velocity interest is going down in industry, but many in the executive suite only think about velocity, a loaded word
    • don’t know soft value if you don’t baseline, now we just fix metrics inline and not all defects and features are equal, need to measure qualitative benefits to the business, will see more as metrics around Agile evolve
    • need to pull testing and quality in all the way through, drive better quality and user experiences
  • describe how you evaluate the tooling landscape?
    •  most observations come from end users, tools aren’t the key most important thing, want to understand where the market is going and what is the right fit
    • biggest differentiator is picking the right tool for the job and the organisation
    • there are tools that enhance Agile that were not built for Agile, and there are specialised tools for Agile, vendors do put thought into who they are targeting so you need to listen, we don’t live in a world where everybody gets their tools from a single place

After Dark

A huge thanks to my friends at Atlassian and Opower who allowed me to tag along to an awesome Tex-Mex joint in Grapevine called Uncle Julios.

From Agile 2012

Podcast

Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up Day 2 of the conference.

5 thoughts on “Agile 2012 Day 2 Review

  1. “Home Depot is a DIY model and when they rolled it out in China it did not work in their culture” – is it just me, or is there some irony in that when you consider where Home Depot (and their Australian counterparts) get most of their stock from…

    • True… For clarity though, the point he was trying to make (and further to my notes), was that the culture in many of those countries is not to do it yourself, you hire somebody to do it for you.

  2. Thrilled that our session on a systems-oriented leadership way of working with conflict was one of your highlights! And, I can’t wait to see the interview we did — those were some good questions you and Shane came up with!

  3. Pingback: Episode 41: Agile 2012 Day 2 | The Agile Revolution

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