# Friday, April 25, 2014

Been on extended Easter holiday over the last week and being back at work was a shock to the system. I had an awesome week off though, and got to do lots of little jobs at home that needed doing (4 hours of ironing!). There was also the more exciting stuff such as my weekend away to London, the zoo and talking my niece and nephew out. If anyone knows me well they will know my passion for crazy golf and so that was a particular highlight Smile

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I have been keeping myself busy at work with my clients and of course organising the first ever European Scrum Coaching Retreat with a few of my good friends. I am so excited about being involved in this and we have only a few places remaining.  By the time you read this it will be SOLD OUT!

Got a few lean Kanban events coming up as well such as the BCS Agile day and the Kanban Leadership retreat. Once again David Anderson and his team has not let me down by picking a glorious  location. I am very much looking forward to spending time with my fellow Kanban peers and seeing what innovative concepts they have to share.

I shall be sitting here with a Pina Colada at some point Smile

So today I have another new retrospective theme for you! Though Top gun is still awesome….

I am obviously so comfortable with running retros now that I have started giving teams a choice of a theme and I will go away and create one based around it. You just know I am going to get a tough one sooner or later!  This weeks theme was mountaineering.

Here is the overall view – Printed naturally as my art isn't that good!

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Some of the lower level questions I want to pose.

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Final Thoughts

Keeping retrospectives fresh is so important because they are such valuable opportunities to gather how everything is going and really make a difference with a team to put improvements in. 

I am keen to hear about any retrospectives that you have created yourself. Get in touch.

Over and out.



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Friday, April 25, 2014 7:41:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Thursday, February 6, 2014

First blog of the New Year!

I had a good Christmas and New Year. Who wouldn’t with three weeks off work and a trip the New York included within that Smile

New York was awesome!! My friend Sarah and I went for 5 days and pretty much immersed ourselves into being total tourists and ladies of leisure, who shopped and wined and dined. 

I have never known weather like it it, minus 16 wind chill and I couldn’t bear to have any flesh on display.

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We didn’t let it spoil our trip though and managed to do everything we wanted. We both agreed that the Circle line boat trip was the high light, because we saw so many of the sights and got classic views of the iconic skyline. The picture above shows the Hudson river  full of ice and it physically moved like lava.

We also managed a cheeky ride around central park in a bright pink horse and carriage.

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Alas though to pay for these pleasures I must work (until my millionaire comes along Smile )

I am meeting a new team next week and I have been asked to run a retro for for them.  Normally I can just pull one of these out of my tool box, but this team has been together a while and their ScrumMaster already seems to have been quite creative with them. Now this left me in a quandary as I don’t want to do just a run of the mill one! There are so many great websites out there and I got lots of inspiration but I just wanted something different, fun and original.

As I sat ‘hard at work’ on the sofa looking for a movie to watch, inspiration hit me. Why not use a movie to form the basis of my retro.

Hmmm, now what is a really cheesy film that is legendary?

Enter ‘Top Gun’

“ I feel the need, the need for speed!!”

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Key questions I am asking:

  • Top Gun Logo - What does it mean to be ‘Top Gun’?
  • F14A Tomcat - Do we have the right gear?
  • Radar – What challenges are there coming up?
  • USS Enterprise – What are we stable in?
  • Explosion – What went wrong?
  • Migs – What are the things dragging us down?
  • Goose & Ice – How are we as a team?

Ultimately you can pick any questions you want to drive from the team, but we are looking for a good mix of positive and areas of opportunity.   I am with this team for two days and so I am looking to drive the opportunities where I can help them quite quickly.

Now, we all know that I am a little bit geeky and so for extra effect I have downloaded the soundtrack to play in the back ground. The first track is my 5 minute time box!

I am now thinking what other films can I start incorporating into a retrospective? I need to find that predominantly female team and bust out one on the classic ‘Dirty Dancing’. Not sure my usual demographic would appreciate that one!

So todays message is go out there and be creative, bring some fun into the team whilst harvesting some real data to help teams go from good to great.

I will let you know how my retro went, even if they hate it, I had fun creating it. If you want my images to print  I am happy to send across and so you only have to ask.

PS: If you see me, ask me how I embarrassed my friend by suggesting a new flow based system going through security in London Heathrow Smile  In fairness he did adopt it…



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Thursday, February 6, 2014 6:11:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Thursday, December 19, 2013

Last night at the Agile Coaching Exchange we had the fabulous Karl Scotland introducing working models that can be used by organisation as they make their journey in the agile world. The reception by the ACE family was awesome and I am glad we can continue to bring interactive and relevant topics to the ACE. For those that were not able to make it you can find Karl's slides here.

During the night Ben was also looking for people to set their New Year’s Agile resolution. We did this by having a big wall and inviting people to place their commitment. Ben and I thought it would be nice to publish these as a reminder of where we want to get to as we bravely step into 2014.

Here is what we collected.

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We are all in control of our own destiny and so it’s up to you now whether you act on this or not. Ben and I can certainly help along the way by trying to align some of our sessions around a common theme.

Overall we had a real Christmas cracker last night and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Merry Christmas.

Helen & Ben

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 6:26:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The end of 2013 will shortly be upon us and I find myself having my usual mother of all personal retrospectives. There has been some real ups and downs this year, but I guess that is just life and somewhat makes us stronger and more prepared next time around. Here are a few of them;

Highs

  • Co-Presenting with Ben Cooke at the Agile Business Conference. This was Bens first conference outing and I was so proud. He ROCKED!
  • Co-Presenting with Mark Summers at Scrum Gathering Las Vegas. Naturally there was fun and frolics. Oh and Mark and Nigel Baker falling asleep in the show!
  • Co-Presenting with Mark Summers at XP Vienna. This is also a lowlight as I got very ill and physically left parts of me in the hotel..seriously, parts will remain!
  • Attending the Scrum Gathering Paris. Great to have the whole RippleRock family out in the corporate colours. I really do love my work family.
  • Attending my first Lean Kanban Conference. Our stand kicked butt with the Lego drive through!
  • Becoming an Accredited Kanban Trainer and putting this into practice. I have made some great new friends in the Kanban world and learnt so much from them.
  • Linked to the above Dan Brown and I refactored and rebranded the KickStart Kanban course. We got presenter scores of 96% on the first outing, I mean, how do we beat that!
  • The Agile Coaching Exchange is going from strength to strength and we are getting awesome speakers. We had our peak at 70 attendees with Roman Pichler! I am very proud of the ACE and want to thank all the presenters for giving up their time for the community, and to Ben Cooke and Duncan Smith who help me to organise the events. Also finally ASOS for letting me host such events in their office.
  • Kicking off the Kanban Coaching Exchange with Dan Brown. Again the numbers for this have been so overwhelming and prove there is a real thirst for knowledge out there.
  • Extended Evolutionary Stages (A reflection tool for teams). Getting to run it with a new client and receiving positive feedback.
  • Loving that my jobs means that I get to meet so many new people and to travel to places I would probably have never gone. There is a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered. I have had lots of new clients this year and made some great new friends, whilst maintaining my strong bond with my teams at ASOS.
  • Being on the organising team for the first European Coaching Event in 2014. Giving back to the community is a real passion of mine. My job is ultimately helping people reach their full potential.

Lows

  • I had a difficult engagement this year and it really did knock my confidence and make me doubt myself. It did make me feel quite low and has taken me much time to get over this. I naturally had the fabulous support of Zia Malik, Mark Summers and Dan Brown who coached me though this. That is what makes my RR work family so ‘Awesome’, we are there for each other 24/7. They helped me to understand that it happens to everyone and in life there are just some people you don’t connect with, and that it is not personal to me or reflective on my overall style. So why am I telling you this when it is quite personal and did upset me? Because it can happen to anyone and people are there to support you and so you don’t need to hide away because you don’t want to show perceived weakness. I have learnt from this experience and I want to offer the support to you, should you find yourself in the same situation. You are not alone.
  • After 16 months of hard graft I left ASOS. I miss my boys!!  But friends are for life and having just come from a Christmas lunch with them, they can’t get rid of me that easy.

Overall, good times out weigh the bad and I really have had a great year . I hope that 2014 lives up to my expectations. At the very least I am going to New York in the New Year and so I am starting the year as I mean to go on!

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. For those that have supported me I want to say thank you and you mean a hell of a lot to me. For my readers who I don’t know, I look forward to meeting you!

To quote Vinnie Jones ‘It’s been emotional’

Merry Christmas !

PS:  I have included a few of my favourite photos for your delight  Smile

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013 3:04:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It’s been a little while since I have written a blog. I guess I have been off the radar for a bit, but I am back now. Since we last spoke I have been to the Scrum Gathering Paris and had an awesome time. I was so encouraged to hear about the great journey they have had at Spotify, and it shows what the art of the possible really is. My work family (RippleRock) were proud sponsors of the event and we hosted a Marshmallow Challenge on the second night. I love that game! I also love eating marshmallows Smile

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I also attended the Agile Business Conference where I presented ‘The Style Challenge’ with my good friend Ben Cooke. It was it his first conference or debutant as I like to call it Smile He did a fantastic job and I look forward to his next submission.

I will be drawing my conference season to an end this week by attending my first ever Modern Management Conference. I am looking forward to seeing all my fellow Kanban enthusiasts and maybe 1 or 2 from my time in Sapanca getting accredited.

On the Kanban front Dan Brown and I have launched the Kanban Coaching Exchange. We had an awesome first session and over 40 people attended. It’s fantastic to see so many people giving up their free time to come and develop themselves and learn more. Don’t forget about the Agile Coaching Exchange also! We had the highest numbers ever come and hear Roman Pichler talk about Product Ownership. From my experiences with Scrum this is one area that many organisations really fall behind on. If you missed the session you can pick up the slides here, and we will shortly be releasing the video. Did I mention we are now starting to record our sessions Smile

I wanted to talk to you today about the art of the possible. I was heavily influenced in the subject by the book ‘The Art of the Possibility’ by Ben & Rosamund Zander. Ben is the conductor of the Boston philharmonic orchestra and his wife is an executive coach.

Even though I am an Agile Coach I still sometimes get caught up in the politics and processes of an organisation, and I found myself in this situation not so long ago. This could be through not challenging the status quo or working around a process that maybe is no longer valid or just getting approval for doing something. The book was suggested to me by a colleague I was working with at the time and did initially think it sounded a little bit like a self-help book. I was so far off the mark because it actually helped me reframe my whole mind-set and look at the world differently. For those working with me at the time will remember my ‘No Regrets ‘mission. For the curious amongst you, it was about challenging everything we do and making the change towards better practices and agility. I was not going to ask for permission. I was just going to do it and if I got my arse kicked, so be it. I had the organisations best interest and goals at heart and so armed with that I was ready with new invigorated ideas, enthusiasm and passion. Did I ever get my arse kicked? As if! No one is brave enough for that.  Smile with tongue out

So what’s it all about?

To explain it all fully here I would need to type out the book, and so I advise you to read it for yourself. To help you all out though I thought I would provide a high level summary of the chapters to wet your appetites.

  1. “It’s all invented” In everyday life we make assumptions about pretty much everything. We make these assumptions many times without really acknowledging or understanding it. By our nature we focus on ourselves. We need to learn how to read and look outside of the assumptions and think bigger than what is in place already.
  2. “Scarcity thinking” – Glass half empty or half full?
  3. Self-fulfilling prophecy - If you assume that people will do well and help them to see how they can, they will. Zander gives every student an “A” in his class, and simply asks them to write a paper to tell what they will do to deserve that A. This gets the students focused on excellence, and takes away the tension that gets in the way of real results.
  4. Mind-set - “being a contribution - you are a gift to others”. How could that change what you do – to focus on the external perspective?
  5. Involve everyone! Zander asks his players to write down how he could improve practices and performances, and pays attention to the suggestions genuinely viewing leadership from all levels.
  6. “Don’t take yourself so seriously – to lighten up”.
  7. ‘Be present to the ways things are’  Many of us are disconnected from reality. By getting back to it, we can see more possibilities.
  8. ‘Give way to passion’  Going with your feelings allows you to be more real, and to go to new heights of accomplishment. Allow yourself to let go.
  9. ‘Light a spark’ See you role as creating a spark of possibility to be lit that others can see. Act as a catalyst for yourself and others.
  10. Be the framework!
  11. Create a vision - “frameworks of possibility”
  12. ‘WE’ - Focus on being inclusive and considering what is best for all.

Final Thoughts

All good systems need to be re-calibrated from time to time and I don’t see us being any different.
I recommend you get this book and read.  it will change your perspective! (note: I am not on commission)

Ask yourself these questions today

‘What assumptions have I made today?’

‘Were they right for the context I used them?

‘Is there a better way?’



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Tuesday, October 29, 2013 3:52:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Had another glorious day out with my nephew last week. This time I took him to Blakeney for a picnic, more crabbing and then we went out on Beans Boats to see the seals at the point. I love animals and going to see the seals has become like a pilgrimage each year for me. Disappointedly we did only catch 5 crabs, but I blame my brother who forgot the bacon. Fish heads just did not cut it!

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We also had the Agile Coaching Exchange (ACE) with Nigel Baker who presented his Optimus Prime and Change session. It addresses organisational evolution towards a Scrum Method. Nigel is one of the funniest people in Scrum I know and he didn’t disappoint me on the night, his humour was on form. Most amusing had to be the teaching of the pisello technique. Well you have heard of the pomodoro technique of time boxing for 20 minutes, well this is the time boxing of 20 seconds. It translates to Pea!

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So on the topic of changing organisations I want to talk about one of the key challenges that I tend to come up against.  When people ask me what the best part of my job is I say ‘people’. Ask me what the worst is and I say ‘People’

Every coach has faced people who are happy with status quo and don’t outwardly support the way the organisation is heading with its delivery method. So as coaches, how can we help them on the journey?

A few years ago I was introduced to the 3 zones model.

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The Comfort Zone

The comfort zone is where we are the majority of the time. It’s the location of the skills and abilities we’ve built up over our career. In the comfort zone we are the most ‘comfortable’ . However we cannot develop ourselves and build new skills when we are in this zone. It consists of the abilities we can already do easily.

The Panic Zone

Have you ever become so worried you can’t focus? Then you’ve probably been in the panic zone at some point of your life.  Activities in the panic zone are so tough that we don’t even know how to approach them. The overall feeling of the panic zone is that you are uncomfortable and possibly discouraged. Like the comfort zone, we can’t make progress or learn in the panic zone.

The Learning Zone

Between the panic zone and the comfort zone is the learning zone. You only develop yourself further by embracing activities that are in the learning zone. The skills and abilities that are just out of reach are in the learning zone; they’re neither so far away that we panic nor close enough where they’re too easy.

So how does this relate to organisational transformation?

When we go into organisation as coaches and come across resistance, it means that we have possibly pushed people into the ‘Panic’ zone. We have to identify what their panic is and then work with them to resolve it. Here are a few examples of ‘panics’ that I come across most frequently:

  • What does this mean to me? Will I still have a job?
  • What if I cannot do this new role?
  • I do not want to dilute my skills
  • I was a manager, am I not anymore?

There are many more examples, but we need to consider how we approach the change and not push people into ‘Panic ‘ and shut themselves down. We need to articulate the change through a vision and ensure that we know what the current end state is anticipated to be, and how people fit into that picture.

We need to anticipate that certain people will need 121 coaching to help support them through the change and consider how they can be incorporate into the change to help influence others.

People are at the core of our business and so we need to invest the appropriate time and effort supporting them through the change and our lives as coaches will be easier.

There is another category of people who do not openly show their fear with reluctance or negativity. These are the ones who claim to get and support Agile, but their behaviours tell you otherwise. They think they are being cunning to disguise their true feelings, but it’s pretty apparent. The above won’t work for them, but I reckon that's another blog in itself!

Final thoughts

I want you to consider your approach to working with individuals, teams and organisations and how you can coach them to be in the optimal place of the Learning Zone.



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Tuesday, August 27, 2013 2:06:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Sunday, August 11, 2013

As a child my parents used to take me and my brother to Wells next the sea for holidays. I have to say it is my favourite beach and it brings back many fond child hood memories for me.

Faced with what to do with my parents, my nephew and the dog for 4 days recently, I happened to be cruising the internet and came up with the brainwave to relive my youth and booked up a caravan for us all at the very same site. This was my opportunity to take my nephew on the same adventures his dad and I had when we were younger.

Now, those that know me wouldn’t expect the words Helen and caravan to be in the same sentence, but I took the risk and ensured that I ordered the luxury version. I must say though that caravans have significantly improved since my child hood!

Wells has a fantastic beach, pretty woods and a little train to take you to the quaint town centre. Once in town, there’s time for the rock shop, fish and chips and a spot of crabbing. I whole heartedly recommend paying a visit if you have never done so.

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So whilst I was reminiscing and retrospecting with my nephew,  a couple of my friends were struggling to retrospect with their own teams. One was advised that ‘The team didn’t need a retrospective as nothing has happened’ and the other was encouraged to squeeze it into 30 minutes. Even the most mature teams would struggle in 30 minutes, but this team was only on sprint 3 and most certainly needed to discuss their issues.

This is not the first time I have seen these behaviours. Teams are not always seeing the value of retrospectives, and from my experience I would say the reasons are in the following areas:

  • They are not engaging for the team
  • Improvements or challenges get discussed, but nothing ever get resolved
  • Not facilitated well so the lose momentum and focus

Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Making your retrospectives engaging

It never ceases to amaze me how many people I meet who don’t vary their retrospective techniques, and still use the classic (What went well, didn’t go well, etc).

I encourage 3 types of retrospectives;

  • Team retrospective – A look at the last iteration from the Scrum Team perspective
  • Release retrospective – A look over a release or period of time and could include people external to the Scrum Team
  • Deep dive – A targeted retro to tackle a specific problem e.g. Why do we never complete all the stories?

There are great books and websites out there that host a whole plethora of techniques for every possible situation you find yourself in. Each team is different and will have their favourites, but variety is the spice of life. One of my earlier teams were extremely creative and so they got the most out of the drawing, word association and improve types. Others were more data driven around milestones.

Never be afraid to try out new techniques and if they don’t work, move onto the next. No one wants to be doing the same one forever! I also encourage that you get people up and active, no one wants to be glued to a seat.

Continuously Improve

Why wouldn’t you get demotivated if you are raising issues or improvements that never get actioned, and are talked about sprint after sprint. As ScrumMasters and Coaches we should be encouraging the teams to discuss these items, find solutions and take the actions into the sprint. We cap these at 2 or 3 per sprint to ensure that they are committed to and can be resolved. We need to ensure that we allow time to complete these activities as part of the sprint planning meeting.

We should also be encouraging those larger action items to be raised as user stories, and discussed with the Product Owner for scheduling as part of the Product Backlog.

Regardless of how we action them, all of the issues or improvements need to be stored, visible and brought to each of the retrospective meetings so they aren’t forgotten, and can be brought into play at any time.

Also as a ScrumMaster consider whether it makes sense for you to resolve any of these for the team yourself  E.g. Getting super sticky post it notes as the others fall off the wall.

Ultimately if the team see that issues are resolved and improvements implemented, it will encourage them to raise and resolve more. Leading to high performance  and self organisation.

Get organised

It is not acceptable to rock up unprepared. You need to prepare! Even seasoned professionals need time out to think about how they are going to facilitate the session, and help to drive out learning and information.

I usually book a timeslot of 2 hours for a retrospective and look to reduce this as the team matures. Conducting a release retrospective can take up to half a day depending on complexity of the release. Either way, leave yourself plenty of time to achieve the goal.

The book Agile Retrospectives by Esther Derby & Diana Larsen gives a good structure for us to follow and the percentage of time suggested for each section.

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  • Set the Stage 10-15%
  • Gather Data 15-20%
  • Generate Insight 15-20%
  • Decide What To Do 20-25%
  • Close 10-15%
  • (Breaks 10-15%)

Using this structure,  slot in the format of the retrospective and maybe an ice breaker or closing game for the team enjoyment. Icebreakers are a great way to get people talking and can be used on teams that have been together for a while also. It is a fact that if you can get people to engage and speak in the first 5 minutes of a meeting, then their contribution to the meeting will be increased compared to those who did not speak.

Facilitation of this meeting is another important aspect. ScrumMasters need to be reading the unsaid word in the room through looking at the teams body language, and listening to what they are saying. Using these observations you can then interject with powerful questions to help draw out more information or feelings.

Sometimes I come across very laissez-faire ScrumMasters. There is nothing wrong with having a laissez-faire style of leadership, however some use it as an excuse to take a back seat. They can sometimes hide behind saying they want the team to solve their own problems. I agree that teams need to solve their own challenges, however sometimes the lack of facilitation by the ScrumMaster is not laissez-faire but lack of interest or they don’t understand the problem. Never be afraid to give options on how you have seen other companies solve similar problems. This can point them in the right direction, but ultimately they will implement what’s best for them.

Final thoughts

Retrospectives are a must have part of any team and the appropriate time and consideration need to be given to them.

I challenge you to take a look at your own practices in this area and see where you can make improvements.

Get in contact if you need any help or want to brainstorm techniques.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013 11:42:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Monday, July 29, 2013

It is common knowledge of my dislike of snow, but what’s worse is this heat! Whilst I love going on holiday and basking in the sun,  It is normally accompanied by a pina colada and a dip every 10 minutes in the pool. Needless to say travelling on the central line in stifling heat has not been my preferred mode of travel. Don’t even get me going about sweaty people!

Apart from the heat the last couple of weeks I have been quite happy going about my usual activities. I am pleased to say that I have now completed my first course as an Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) and felt it went really well. All the feedback was positive and I got to sleep in a four poster bed for the first time.

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Last week we hosted the Agile Coaching Exchange (ACE) with Bob Marshall as our guest speaker for the evening. The topic of conversation was Non Violent Communication (NVC).

It was the first time we strayed into the more softer skills at the ACE and it seems to go down very well.

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So what is Non Violent communication?

So violence in this context is not about me physically assaulting someone, but it is about me getting others to do my will through fear, obligation or guilt (FOG).

So how many times have you been in a situation where:

  1. You went to the pub with your friend when you really fancied a night in, but they convinced you otherwise.
  2. Worked late or weekends to deliver a project when you really wanted to spend time with your family, when asked by a supervisor.
  3. Done a little extra at work as you are led to believe it will help you to secure a promotion or pay rise.

If you answered yes to any of the above, the chances are you have been subjected to a violent communication style.

It normally is delivered in the following key steps:

  • The Demand – “The board and I have been looking at your report and wondered if you can you get your team to work at the weekend as the project is running behind”.
  • The Resistance – You might ask if you can investigate other options, such as going to back to the stakeholders and reconsidering timescales or scope.
  • The Pressure & Threats – This request is met with reluctance and you are reminded that promotions and pay rises are coming up soon and getting this extremely important project over the line would be taken into consideration.
  • Compliance – If you don’t do this then your lively hood is threatened (even though this is not explicitly stated).

I can honestly say I have never used such as extreme examples as above, but I have used cohesion or blackmail to get others to do what I want. I am a woman of course Smile

I can only imagine though that the person on the end of the example feels as if they really have no choice but to comply.  How about if we had tackled the situation as follows:

  • Observation – “I see from your weekly report that the project is running behind”
  • Feelings – “ I am worried that we have made commitments to a third party and won’t be able to deliver on time. This could impact their impression on the company and it is important to us and our shareholders that we secure further business from them in the future”
  • The Need – “I need to understand how we can get the project back on track and can you help me to understand what the options are?”
  • The Request – Can you work with me to pull some information together to help us make a decision?”

Whilst these are extreme examples, in the second option the decision has not been made already and outside the control of the team. The team might well have decided to work the weekend but that would not have been through Fear, Obligation or Guilt. But through choice.

By using the 4 steps above we can really evaluate our communication style and start to consider what needs do I have, and what are the needs of the other person. When the needs of one person is put above the other, then violent communication is very much happening.

Another example of violent communication is judgement.

How many times have you judged a person by their size, shape, clothes or background?

It’s hard not to in many situations, but ultimately you are projecting your needs and insecurities on others and therefore you are acting violently towards them.

The subject on NVC is so broad and comprehensive, I have only touched the tip of the iceberg here and based on what I heard from Bob last week. There is a lot of literature out there and I know I am certainly going to be looking at this further starting with the founder Marshall Rosenburg.  I can only imagine that Bobs’ blog is a little goldmine as well!

Final thoughts

The term violent communication is extreme and should be used with caution in everyday life. As a coach I know if I start using the  term with my clients they are going to get turned off very quickly. But through subtle coaching I can get them to start thinking about the way they communicate with their people in a different way, creating an inclusive environment where mutual appreciation of needs is considered. Wouldn’t we all want to work in that environment? Productivity, quality and morale would surely follow.

I challenge you this week to think about how you communicate to your family, work colleagues and to strangers.

We have some really great speakers coming up at the ACE for rest of the year,  I recommend you pop by our page, have a look,  and get signed up.

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Monday, July 29, 2013 11:10:50 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I have always had good banter with my girly friends that I am waiting for the right millionaire to come along and build me an enormous shoe cupboard. Alas, after some time I have relented in my waiting and opted to build it for myself, being the independent/impatient woman that I am. (When I say build it for myself, I mean pay some company to come in and do it for me Smile ).

Having a goal is really important to me and so for this particular project I set myself the following:

‘A sliding door wardrobe that allows the storage of all of my shoes, clothes and handbags. The finish will be of high quality and will fit in with the look and feel of the rest of the house’

I didn’t say it had to be a complex goal, but you need to know what you are trying to achieve so that you know whether you have met it when the project is completed. The goal will also dictate my response to impediments that come my way, such as when the carpet in the room needed to be taken up. Now I could have done this myself, but I choose to get a professional fitter in at extra cost to avoid compromising quality and going against my goal.

There have been two events recently that have made me really re-consider my views on setting goals, specifically in the work environment. They are:

  • Reading the book The Goal by Eli Goldratt.
  • Replaying the Get Kanban Game at the Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) Course with each team having specific goals.

Firstly The Goal is an awesome book and if you haven’t read it then I would seriously consider adding it to your literary backlog. It tells the story of Alex Rogo who manages a production plant where everything is behind schedule and things are looking dire. He is given three months to turn things around. Remembering a distant acquaintance he met called Jonah, he sets about putting things right in the factory by applying certain practices that we know by the name the Theory of constraints. To do this though he needs to really think about what the factory is trying to achieve. I won’t spoil it!

Secondly during my AKT course I replayed the Get Kanban game, but this time the two teams were both given different goals.

  • Team 1 - To make the most money
  • Team 2 - To have the shortest lead time

To me the goal was very clear, we needed to reduce our Work In Progress (WIP) limit to the lowest figure that was sensible and in this case that was 1. In real life you wouldn’t normally expect a team to have a WIP of 1, but as this was the game then fine Smile

What surprised me is how quickly during the game that people forgot what the goal was. An example being an expedite task has come into the queue and if we complete it by a certain time then we get extra money. Now if I was in team 1 then this expedite task would have been the highest priority for us to complete, however I was in team 2 and so an expedite task would only extend the lead time, therefore breaking our goal. This scenario was thrown at us several times throughout the game and each time the team fell into the same trap. I found myself having to re-iterate.

“ How will this help us meet our goal of having the shortest lead time”

Now in fairness this was a game and we were all excited to be playing it, but how many times does this happen in reality in organisation that we work in every day.

That user story that Spongebob thinks is really important gets argued to the top of the queue, but in reality it doesn’t fit with the overall objective of the organisation or feature.

If I am honest I have seen this behaviour a lot and I am guilty of this myself.

So what can we do about it?

  • Understand the goal of your organisation – Like in the book never be afraid to question whether that is actually the right one. Chances are you could have made the wrong assumption.
  • Understand the goal of the feature that you are working on and how it relates to the organisational goal.
  • Create sprint goals to keep the teams true.
  • Take a whole team approach to challenging when something looks to derail you – never be afraid to say no!
  • Take a personal approach to ask yourself ‘How will this help us meet our goal of X’ .

Final thoughts

It is very easy to be caught up in the moment and go with the flow, but what is the impact of this?

What changes do you need to make to ensure that you, your team or your organisation keep true to what it is trying to achieve?

Now there are 20 plus occurrences of the word goal or goals in this blog and so hopefully by now you know how important they are Smile

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013 10:31:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, July 12, 2013

One of the best bits about working in London is the number of restaurants you have at your disposal. Being from Norwich I have pretty much been to every restaurant in the city so it is exciting to be faced with so much choice in London.

My most recent quest has been to find the best steak in London. Luckily, I have a couple of friends who help me indulge in this pleasure and we have been working our way around them.

Part of the experience at the end of a meal is a retrospective on where we think the restaurant rated on the Meek Scale. The scale is based on:

  • Taste
  • Cost
  • Ambience of restaurant
  • Service
  • Portion Size
  • Value for money

Taking all of these into account we rate the restaurant out of 7 and I have formulated my list of favourite restaurants. Being a geek I have not just done this for steak restaurants, but for all restaurants I have visited in the last 15 months I have been in London. As you can imagine it is quite a list Smile

I guess this information would be valuable to the restaurants as I would expect they continually look to improve the experience for the customers and best practice for their staff.

So why do we not do this for the teams we are working with?

Well firstly we would never want to rank teams or have the information used as a stick to beat them. But the concept of holding a team retrospective based on the best practice we see in really high performing Agile teams sounds useful.

At my last client I introduced something called Evolutionary Stages to of the teams. I cannot take sole credit of this as it was initially created by Steve Garnett, however the other RippleRock coaches and I certainly drove it to the next level of adoption.

The concept is a tool that enables teams to self-reflect on where their Agile, development and testing practices are compared to best practice and taking it one level further to the company’s long term goals.

I have written a user experience report on our journey and findings for your enjoyment.

Final Thoughts

Continuous improvement is vital in the tough and changing world that we live in. If organisations are going to continue being profitable and market leading we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We need to be continually thinking about evolving ways of working.

Evolutionary Stages is a great tool to help you focus on team and organisational practices, tracking from start to the end point of your journey. We often forget about our starting point and fail to celebrate our successes along the way. Let’s stop and celebrate what we have achieved.

If you happened to be interested in my list of ratings for restaurants I have visited – then drop me a line and I will send it to you Smile

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Friday, July 12, 2013 9:39:58 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]