Archive for February, 2010

A Culture of Heroism

Agile & Lean, Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 11 2010

A while back, I wrote about A Culture of Blame. As I’ve traveled around the US and to other countries, I’ve seen more and more evidence of this, which keeps me thinking. I’m always looking for patterns of behavior, and simple ways to describe them.

When talking about Agile teams as compared to Waterfall teams, one of the things that has become apparent is that Waterfall is also a Culture of Heroism. In fact, in many ways, much of Western culture is about heroism. We laud the star athlete, the exceptional business person, the standout author, and so on. In many cases, it seems to be recognition and acclaim for the individual over the group, or at least the individual separate from the group.

Agile teams foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation. That’s not to say that there’s not room for individual excellence, effort, and achievement. I would say that high performant teams tend to focus on the success of the team over the individual. Is Agile more socialist, while Waterfall is more capitalist? I’m not sure, but it seems that way.

Regardless, there are a number of side effects of a Culture of Heroism:

  • Ego-driven achievement
  • Unhealthy competition (although sometimes it’s quite healthy)
  • Rewards that – in recognizing the individual – discourage the others on the team
  • A focus on the individual rather than the group goals

This is an interesting thing for me, because I’m highly competitive, and am happy to have individual recognition. On the other hand, I believe strongly in subordinating my ego to the purposes and goals of the team, and that the success of the team is what’s important*. Since my ego still wins out at times, I recognize that this is not just a struggle for me, but for others as well.

We’re raised in a culture of individualism and heroism, then we are invited into the Agile fold, and asked to shift our focus and our energy from ourselves to our teams.

I’ll continue to explore this as I get the opportunity to work with more teams. I will say that I’ve seen the culture of heroism everywhere I’ve gone, in one form or another, and believe firmly that the change to a culture of collaboration must come from the leadership as well as the team.

Training is amazing

Agile & Lean | Posted by Doc
Feb 09 2010

I’m at the end of day one of training, doing a custom two-day workshop for a client. The requests were long, so we negotiated it down to what we thought would reasonably fit within two days.

At 11am, I was on slide 4 in the PowerPoint deck. The reason it was moving so slowly is that these people are STARVING for information and guidance. They know they’re doing “quagile” (quasi-agile), they want to move closer to “real” Agile, and they are interested and eager and articulate.

It fascinated me all day, as they took what I was presenting and ran with it. Some heated discussions, some passionate, some involving the whole group of 15, some a subset. It went on all day.

It’s frustrating to me that they’re so eager, and facing such challenges in achieving Agile adoption. And yet it’s the same pattern…

The development team wants it, the QAs want it, the BAs and PMs want it – the “business” and the “customer” want the same old thing.


Facilitation Patterns at Houston APLN April 15

Events, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Feb 05 2010

Another opportunity to tighten it up, thanks to Robbie Mac Iver and Houston APLN.

Presenting at XP2010 in Norway and Better Software in Las Vegas

Events, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Feb 01 2010

I’ve put these together – XP2010 and Better Software – because they occur one after the other. So I may be insane for considering this, but I’m just so psyched that these conferences are embracing my work on Facilitation Patterns and Antipatterns.

Now to work on the second deck of cards for March (SDC2010) – I want to have two variants of the deck ready to go for all three conferences.

Interviewed at CodeMash 2010 about Open Space

Events, Facilitation, Open Space | Posted by Doc
Feb 01 2010

I love talking about this stuff, and David Giard gave me the opportunity at the CodeMash 2010 conference.

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