Archive for August, 2009

A Metallica power ballad?

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 31 2009

Having arrived in San Francisco last night, I was feeling somewhat poetic.  Or so I thought.  So I tweeted something about listening to the rumble of the cable cars down on the street.

A friend sent me the following tweet…

Him: Dammit Steven…who cares? Love you man, but your tweet content is sometimes questionable. BTW, I’m sitting at my kitchen table ๐Ÿ˜‰

Me: I’m happy that you love me ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll strive for greater profundity

Him: Your profundity inspires me. When you get off track, it’s like when Metallica does a power ballad ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here I am wondering about something that I’ve talked to others about… everything I tweet, as well as everything I blog, and everything I say in any public situation, contributes to how I’m perceived in the world. Since the world includes my professional community, it’s incumbent on me to think about what I say and how I say it.  Right?

I believe that it is. So when I tweet something about the weather or where I’m having dinner, it contributes to people’s opinion and impression of me, sometimes in very subtle ways. Mostly, I think about that before I tweet.  Sometimes I just think “the heck with it – I feel like saying this” and I go ahead.

I know several people whose Twitter personality or blog personality is DRAMATICALLY different from their in-person personality. This always makes me wonder.  For instance, some folks are amazingly nice in person, but downright caustic electronically.  I don’t get that. Why should there be such a difference, and why do they do it?

So I’m occasionally random and pointless, and clearly this annoys/disappoints/frustrates at least one friend and Twitter follower. It definitely gives me pause for thought.

How does my humor come across? How do my random/sarcastic/playful comments come across? Am I really being aware of not only myself, but how I affect others? And am I considering this in the generally-less-safe in-person context and the generally-more-safe electronic context?

This is one of the big lessons: being self-aware is work, and the work is never done.

Agile2009 Drawing to a Close

Agile & Lean, Events | Posted by Doc
Aug 27 2009

I have to admit that barring the cold I got and the exhaustion, this has been an outstanding experience.

You may be thinking “Doc must have attended some GREAT sessions!”

First of all, I was privileged to be a Stage Producer. This means that I got to go through 120 submissions to choose around 20 presenters/sessions. Along the way, I recruited some outstanding people to be on my committee, including Ola Ellnestam as my Assistant Stage Producer. Ola is a star in his own right.

During the conference, I tried to get to say hello to all of “my” presenters, and spend a minute or two in their sessions. I didn’t quite make it.

There were also over 20 ThoughtWorkers presenting, and I tried to spend a minute or two in each of their sessions.  This was particularly hard today, when there were as many as four of them presenting concurrently, along with one or two of “my” presenters.

Then there were the amazing people I got to hang out with, meet, and connect with, like Alistair Cockburn (poetry readings and shamanism this year), Jean Tabaka (I love Jean Tabaka!), my dear friends Julie Chickering and Christine Delprete, Chris Matts and Olav Maassen, Diana Larsen, Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman, Martin Fowler and all the other fabulous ThoughtWorkers, Twitter-friends whom I finally got to meet, Corey Haines, Phil Brock (without whom the Agile Alliance would fall apart), Jim Newkirk, and on and on. I spent a significant chunk of my time in the Open Jam area, which I have dubbed “The Shmooze Pool”, since that’s what I did there.

I also became a member of the APLN board, and spent more time with Julie Chickering in that endeavor, along with Pollyanna Pixton, Todd Little, Jim Highsmith, David Chilcott, Linda Cook, Rose Anton, Sanjiv Augustine, Robbie Mac Iver, Cesar Idrovo, and Susan Fojtasek. As a combined effort between the APLN and ThoughtWorks Studios, I am starting to plan a series of Agile Leadership Open Space events. We’ll probably initially focus on cities where there is both a ThoughtWorks office and an APLN chapter. And then? We’ll see. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I met so many interesting, smart, challenging, engaging people this week. Just amazing. If I didn’t name you above, I apologize – you helped to make this an exceptionally rich experience for me.

And then there was my session on Facilitation Patterns & Antipatterns.  The feedback was excellent, including some critical comments that will enable me to improve the offering and generate more value.

Expected more focus on how to be a facilitator and practicing facilitation.

Could benefit from connecting the patterns to when to use them, how some of them help.

Very well presented and very thoroughly prepared and thought out. Would love to hear more project/real life examples as anecdotes.

Loved the presentation and the interactive activities with the deck of cards. Learned lots of great stuff.

The cards were a big hit.  Someone at each table got to take the deck from their table home with them, and a bunch of folks asked me to send them one (I have to have more printed!).

Tomorrow we have the Agile2009 retrospective for the organizers, and stage producers, and so on.  It should be very valuable, and should start Jim Newkirk off on a great path toward Agile2010 in Nashville.

So while I really, REALLY wish I hadn’t gotten a cold, I’m still a happy boy! ๐Ÿ™‚

First full presentation of Facilitation Patterns and Antipatterns today #agile2009

Agile & Lean, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 25 2009

Yes, this is just a brag post. ๐Ÿ™‚

At 2pm Central time today, I’ll be doing the first full delivery of the Facilitation Patterns & Antipatterns workshop at the Agile2009 conference.

Yes, I’m excited.

I’ve gotten great response from the folks I’ve told about it.  Hopefully some of them will turn up. ๐Ÿ™‚

Teaser: Facilitation Patterns Playing Cards @ #Agile2009

Events, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 23 2009

In planning for my workshop at the Agile2009 conference, I had my artist – Mike Ferrin – create the characters you’ve seen me add to my posts here. I’ve taken those characters to create playing cards, which will be used in the workshop.

(While I’m thinking of it, take a look at the sessions being offered by my fellow ThoughtWorkers at Agile2009 – some very cool stuff there!)

I thought you might like to see a sample of the cards.  This is the back of the cards…

And here’s Superhero…

I hope I’ll see you at the workshop on Tuesday afternoon.  I’m planning on it being fun!


Coping and Communicating, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 20 2009

I’m reading this book, and one character says to another “Everything has consequences.”

I swear I heard a bell go off in my head!

I’ve always said “Everything counts.”  And also “if I’m present, whether I’m active or passive, I have an effect on what happens.”

And then this fictitious characters says “Everything has consequences.” and it all comes together for me.

Everything you do, or don’t do, has consequences.

“Right, Doc. Like if I give my wife a gift, it has consequences?”

Yup. And sometimes unexpected ones. Maybe the gift is too expensive, or not expensive enough.  Maybe you thought she’d love it, but she sees it in a way you’d never think of.  Or maybe she just loves it, and feels warmer towards you for a while.

“Okay. How about if I do nothing?”

There’s no such thing as “nothing.” Being inactive is not nothing. Being silent or withdrawn is most definitely not “nothing.”

As always, since It’s All About Me, whatever you do or don’t do, I will interpret according to my context, my view of the world at that moment. And that’s my reality.

So “nothing” might be angry or hostile or sad or frustrated or… And, as they tell us in Crucial Conversations, I will then proceed to tell myself a story about how you feel, what it means, and how it affects me.  All as a result of you saying and doing… nothing.

I’m not suggesting that you either stop doing anything, or that you do something all the time.

I’m saying that it pays to be aware that Everything has consequences.

The Pain of Healing

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 13 2009

This one is more personal than most of my posts to this blog.  Still on topic, and personal.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter or even LinkedIn will have seen my posts about my mother. In brief, she developed Primary Peritoneal Cancer, underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, had surgery (debulking, hysterectomy), and is home now in New York City. I’ve spent a significant amount of the last month with her, just to be with her through this last part – finding out whether the chemo worked, planning for the surgery, and the being here for the surgery and post-surgery.

As I’ve watched her over the week since her surgery, I came to realize that it’s all too easy for me to forget what it’s like to be recovering from major surgery, and to apply my own biases and beliefs to her recovery.  I have had a couple of major surgical events in my life, and yet here I am forgetting what that was like. Shouldn’t it be easy and exciting and rewarding to be recovering and healing? I forgot about my first walk down the block after one surgery – I made it one-half block, then was so tired I had to turn back. I was only 35 at the time.  My mother is 83.

The reality for the patient is that it’s slow and frustrating and annoying and frightening and frequently painful. In my mother’s case, they cut her open, took out parts, and sewed and stapled her back together again.  That’s what my wife refers to as “an insult to the body.”

So it’s not unreasonable that it hurts while it’s healing, that my mother is moving slowly, fighting to get the drugs out of her system, and struggling with getting “back to normal.” And that doesn’t even take into account the two rounds of chemo she went through, nor the four more she’ll undergo to make sure all the cancer is gone.

So how is this on topic?

I deal with friends and colleagues in work situations all the time, and all too frequently apply my own current biases and beliefs to them and their behaviors. Even when I know that something unusual is going on – whether personal or professional – I have, at times, tended to pay it lip service and still expect them to “get on with it.”

Recovery is work. Recovery is painful. Recovery is frustrating and discouraging. Recovery demands focus and attention, sometimes to the detriment or exclusion of other important things. Healing is a full-time job, in many cases.

I’m not saying that someone who is recovering from something gets an automatic free pass.  I am saying that perhaps I need to remind myself of these truths, and integrate them into my thinking, and into my behavior. Sympathy is a valuable tool.

Facilitation Antipattern: Helpless

Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 12 2009

Motto: I can’t do it.
Belief: I am not capable of making decisions or taking action on my own.
: Avoids making decisions or commitment. Frequently solicits others to work together and take on leadership/responsibility.
Characteristics: Fearful, lacking confidence, seeks approval.

Helpless can be very subtle, and sometimes very overt. Helpless frequently says things like “oh, I couldn’t do that” or “I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility”. Helpless tends to avoid making commitments and taking responsibility, and is therefore quite skilled at recruiting others to participate and take on leadership and responsibility.

Helpless is only detrimental to a group in the sense that this individual doesn’t contribute fully nor live up to their potential.  Other than that, they may be very positively contributory in discussions and in helping the group move forward.

Facilitation Antipattern: Chicken Little

Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 12 2009

Motto: Duck! The sky is falling!
Belief: Everything is an indicator of trouble to come.
: Points out the negatives and the danger in most things. Frequently tries to prevent action out of fear.
Characteristics: Fearful, negative, reactive, active in pointing out the problems, believable, has conviction, convincing, passionate

You’re in the midst of a conversation in which you have high expectations of reaching a conclusion and moving on to action. Chicken Little says “but doesn’t that mean that someone will lose their job?” or “I’ve tried that before, and it always ends in problems.”

Chicken Little is not a bad person, by any means. Chicken Little just sees everything as a portent of bad things to come.

Just in case you’re not familiar with the tale of Chicken Little, let me refresh your memory:

The basic premise is that a chicken eats lunch one day, and believes the sky is falling down because an acorn falls on her head. She decides to tell the King, and on her journey meets other animals who join her in the quest. In most retellings, the animals all have rhyming names such as Henny Penny, Cocky Lockey and Goosey Loosey. Finally, they come across Foxy Loxy, a fox who offers the chicken and her friends his help.

Depending on the version, the moral changes. In the “happy ending” version, the moral is not to be a “Chicken”, but to have courage. In other versions the moral is usually interpreted to mean “do not believe everything you are told”. In the latter case, it could well be a cautionary political tale: The Chicken jumps to a conclusion and whips the populace into mass hysteria, which the unscrupulous fox uses to manipulate them for his own benefit, sometimes as supper.

The challenge with Chicken Little is that he/she is believable, has great conviction, is convincing, and generally brings passion to their arguments. While you might not agree or believe at the start, through these attributes, Chicken Little will often persuade others to his/her point of view, thereby stalling or derailing the team.

More new graphics, and Agile2009

Agile & Lean, Events, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 07 2009

Yes, I’ve added more new graphics, courtesy of Mike Ferrin.

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that these characters will make their “live” debut when I present my session on Facilitation Patterns and Antipatterns at Agile2009. I’ve developed a workshop around these ideas, and I think it will be a lot of fun.

I’m sorry

Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 02 2009

I’m all in favor of saying “I’m sorry.” Not necessarily as an admission of fault or wrongdoing, of course. But because sometimes it’s the right thing to say.

“I had a really rotten day.” “I’m sorry.”

And then there are times that it’s just not the appropriate thing to say.

Mary and Bill were riding down in the elevator, on their way out to the store. They were chatting as usual, talking about this and that.

The elevator reached the ground floor. When the door opened, there was another couple standing right in front of the door, effectively blocking the way.

As Bill and Mary started to exit the elevator, Mary turned sideways to edge out, and said “I’m sorry.”

Bill’s inclination had been to say “excuse me” until Mary spoke up, and then he was stumped into silence.

What did Mary have to be sorry about? There was no fault, and nothing to be sympathetic to. Rather, the people standing in front of the elevator should have said “I’m sorry” or at least “excuse me” and moved aside.

So why would Mary say “I’m sorry”?

My thought is that Mary has self-image issues. She behaves as though she somehow believes that other people are worth more than she is or more important than she is. I could be wrong, but I’ve seen this kind of behavior enough times to have a clue.

While I believe strongly in treating people with respect, I don’t believe in behaving with automatic subservience or submission.

You’ve gotta earn those, and you’d better have a BIG hammer!

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