Walking in sync

Agile & Lean | Posted by Doc
Aug 29 2013

At the client facility where I’ve been doing coaching and facilitation/training, they have large, long corridors floored in tile.

The other day, as I was walking out – about the equivalent of three city blocks – I heard footsteps behind me. Click click click of hard heeled shoes. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a woman walking in the same direction I was going. No big deal.

I faced forward and continued walking.

I heard the sounds of another person coming into the main corridor from a side corridor. Now the sounds went

Clickclick click click click…click clickclick click click clickclick…

As I listened it changed to

clickclick cliclick clclick click click click click

Just in case that’s not clear (LOL), what happened was that these two women started to walk in sync. It continued for a few more seconds until it was clear that they were walking perfectly in sync with each other.

meetingI turned to look and saw that they were not together in any way, and were walking on opposite sides of the corridor.

I blurted “You synchronized!” They looked at me, looked at each other, and laughed.

Now let’s consider the larger implications of this simple experience. Two people who apparently did not know each other, organically beginning to move in sync with each other.

How does this play in teams? (You knew I was going to go here, didn’t you? 😉 )

Consider a group of people who may or may not have worked together before, who have different work styles and rhythms, who see things differently and understand things differently. Throw them together in a modest sized room, give them some guidance on how they might work together, get them started, and coach and guide them. Mightn’t they also begin to walk in sync?

Walking in sync doesn’t mean that they become identical. The two women walking down the corridor behind me were not the same height, were no doubt thinking about different things, were carrying different things in their hands, wearing different shoes, and so on, and yet they naturally fell into sync with each other. Their differences remained, and yet they began to “work” together organically.

This is what we expect to see on Agile teams: organically beginning to work in sync, to develop rhythms and patterns that belong to the team, as much as to the individuals. We see this on high performing teams consistently.

Are you fighting the rhythm or letting it flow through you?

No one Agile

Agile & Lean, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 28 2013

What’s the right way to do Agile?

Thinking differentlyIs Kanban Agile? Or is there Agile and Kanban and Lean and…?

Is iterative harder than Kanban or vice versa?

These questions and more seem to lead to organizations making statements like “this is the way that WE do Agile!”

I don’t object to an organization choosing an approach, unless they choose from a position of ignorance or confusion or both. And that’s what I see a lot.

There is no one way or right way. Even within a single organization, there might be variations that make sense.

There is no Agile Cookbook. There’s a pantry, a refrigerator, a stove, and a bunch of hungry people. Go figure it out.

Agile is people, pure and simple

Agile & Lean, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 27 2013

In the community of Agile practitioners and aficionados, there is frequently a focus on practices. Developer practices. Tester practices. Leader practices. Ceremonies and rituals. A lot of what we do.

Those who have passed the Shu level are aware that this is only a small part of what has led to the success of Agile.

Consider the value statements (http://agilemanifesto.org):

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools
  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

The first and third are clearly about people. The last is also fundamentally about people – mindset, attitude, and management.

Also consider the principles (http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html). I’d say that seven of them are clearly about people, and two others clearly have implications about and for people. That’s 9 out of 12.

This says that the seventeen men who collaborated on the Agile Manifesto saw people at the heart of everything. As do I. I don’t think that has changed in the twelve years since they penned this historic document.

Coaches coach people.

Trainers train people.

Many of the many practices are obviously about people. For example:

  • retrospectives
  • daily stand-ups/scrums
  • planning
  • estimating
  • pairing
  • co-location

Quite a number of the others are also – directly or indirectly – about people.

When you get right down to it, the practices are Processes and Tools.

Think about the people.

Happy birthday to you

Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 25 2013

gladiatorWhen I was young, I armored myself in arrogance. It was my protection against caring what others thought of me. It was my protection against hurt. It was false armor and false protection.

When I was an adult, I began to have an idea of what it meant to be a full human being in a world of other human beings. Thanks to the love and patience of my wife Debbie, the patience and efforts of my teacher Mather Karateka, and the community of my martial arts friends, teachers, and students – my family – including Chuck Phillips, I began to realize the importance of the people around me.

The day of my revelation came in my 37th year, when I realized that I wanted to be someone other people liked, respected, and chose to be around. It was a difficult transition, to take off the armor of my youth and embrace the naked vulnerability of wanting to be real and liked.

It’s been 26 years since I joined California Karate Academy and began this journey. The journey is not over. I learn more every day about what it means to be a full human being. Being Jewish by birth and heritage, I think of this as being a mensch.

Today is my birthday. Those who know me know that I enjoy and celebrate my birthday, and am happy to have others do so as well.

The revelation I had today is that the birthday wishes of others represent some success along the path on which I set my feet 26 years ago. Having children and a wife who profess their love and respect and appreciation, having a community of friends and colleagues who wish me well and celebrate with me, and realizing that I set myself a difficult path of great value and have worked my way along that path… this is, for me, noteworthy, remarkable, and a source of amazing joy.

Thank you.

Feedback (Norton)

Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 23 2013

If you are not compassionate and honest in your feedback, you are complicit in the dysfunction.

From my friend, Michael “Doc” Norton (@DocOnDev)

Attitude (a little wisdom)

Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 22 2013

From my friend Kris Landato:

Without question, the most important thing in your life is your attitude. Regardless of whether it’s good, bad or somewhere in between, your attitude shapes your day and molds your future. The type of attitude you embrace daily can make you or break you.

How many of you read that and said “well, of course!”?

How many of you said “well, attitude is important, but not the most important thing.”?

Either way, I suspect that most of you agree that attitude is important.

Do you check yours?

Get an extra person on your team

Career, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 22 2013

In my article “The Case for Masterful Meetings” (2006), I have documented that with a team of twenty people who spend an average of thirteen hours a week in meetings, just a 15 percent increase in the productivity of meetings is equivalent to adding another person to the team.

from The Secrets of Facilitation: The SMART Guide to Getting Results with Groups by Michael Wilkinson

I spend a chunk of my time in meetings. Do you? Do you find yourself doing one of the following?

  • Reading email on your phone
  • Updating your Facebook profile
  • Playing solitaire
  • Slapping yourself to stay awake
  • Thinking about how to look like you’re paying attention when your mind is doing something else altogether

Have I done those things in meetings? Of course I have.

An ineffectively run meeting is painful or boring or both. Ineffectively run meetings are the source of the moans and groans we hear whenever we talk about scheduling a meeting. The idea that a “meeting” is a forum for a lecture or a presentation is a cause for immense frustration.

Meetings should serve a purpose for all of the participants. More than that, I use the word participants deliberately, as opposed to the commonly used word attendees. A participant – well – participates. That individual is a part of the event, contributing and receiving in some balanced fashion. An attendee… attends. That individual is present. That individual may be passive, distracted, disgusted,…

Each of us has the opportunity to change this. Sometimes there are organizational or situational issues that present us, but it’s worth trying.

Welcome back

Musings | Posted by Doc
Mar 10 2013

No, not you. Me.

Yes, I feel like I’ve been gone, in some ways. Not from my blog (although there’s some truth to that too), but from my spiritual side.

Here’s the catalyst:

This reminded me of how small I am, and yet how much each moment, each movement, each word can change the course of my world and affect those around me. Each drop of water is lost in the tide, and yet each drop of water makes a difference.

I feel like I’ve been somewhat lost from all of this, caught up in the details and the logistics and the sometimes-overwhelmingness of life and career. A few minutes on the beach, watching and listening to the tide, brought me back.

Welcome back, me.

Videos of memorials to my mother, Diana List Cullen, at All Souls Church, New York City, 6 Feb 2013

Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 09 2013

Click on the links (titles) to view the videos.

A Memorial to my Mother from my Sister-in-Law Kerry

Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 09 2013

DRGLC-422 I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to know and love Diana as a daughter-in-law, mother to her grandchildren, friend and colleague.

Through my work, I was fortunate to be able to visit New York quite often and have wonderful times with Diana talking, laughing, shopping, museum hopping and eating. There wasn’t a topic we missed that was important to us both and ranged from gender equity to spirituality to raising children. She gave me insight, wisdom, a time to reflect and companionship.

In recent times when we were both fighting cancer together she gave me courage and demonstrated how to have strength and dignity in the face of a pretty adverse foe. Her kindness and caring to me during this time eptomised the woman we know and love.


I will never forget her enormous energy as we traversed the wilds of New York City. I couldn’t keep up with her as she strode out with legs, littler than mine, with enthusiasm and glee.

Her childlike wonder at the world was amazing and admirable, everything worth pondering and enjoying as though seeing for the very first time. I have always admired her stylishness and her amazing eye and appreciation for beauty and culture, wandering around the MOMA and the MET, such special occasions. Our girls have inherited her love of art culture and performance and shopping!.

Diana not renown for having pets, on one of her visits to AUS, developed a special relationship with our dog, Wylby, and with great care and some anxiety took him on a beach walk and innocently wandered into a restricted area for dogs – this part we didn’t explain! She read the sign at the beach which said ‘No dogs on the leash’ as ‘dogs can roam free off the leash’. She then came across the ranger who about to fine her or at the very least chastise her for the breach of the rules, she explained her version of the signs, I wished I had been there to see his face. They rescued the dog who was now happily off the leash and she and the ranger came home for a cuppa – I think he was ensuring they both got home safely!

She had an amazing capacity to form relationships and was always happy to hear people’s stories.

She was generous to a fault, if I ever mentioned a product I liked but unattainable in Australia, I would then receive large care packages. ‘Graham’ crackers and wheat thins coming to the point where even I couldn’t consume them all, she wasn’t one for moderation.

She was so proud of her family, of which I was a member, she rejoiced in my achievements, I always felt special and loved.

DRGLC-353A wee story…
I am so grateful my daughters, in so many ways, reflect their grandmother and of course I am grateful to be married to her son who has the best of her in him.

And in joining two cultures, Australia and New York, she was a bonza gal.

Forever missed, forever part of our lives.

Kerry Ferguson

4 February 2013

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