In Opposition to the Convention of Hiring: New Principles for Hiring

Annie looked down at the table and softly said to her fiancee, “I’ve never been this nervous, or excited, about a job.” Sitting on the table was a package from the company she had been interviewing with. The interview process had been unlike anything she’d ever experienced; she felt fairly evaluated, trusting of the company mission and values, and she knew the company was a perfect fit for her. The day prior, the company informed Annie she would receive a package–the very package on her table–and would contain everything needed: the company’s hiring decision, feedback, and other insights from the hiring process.

Annie took a deep breath and opened the package. Continue reading

Towards a Culture of Teams

Have you ever been asked to work with a team, then observed team members interacting with each other, well… never?

The desire to transform an organizational culture to one inspired by teams is understandable. There is no shortage of evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, which suggests teams (and teamwork) are a competitive advantage. The desire for such results through the use of self-organizing teams has led to the popularization of teams as a common organizational design.

What I’ve found in my career, however, is a tendency for organizations to both manage and incentivize teams like a “matrix” (of individuals) despite the assumption or label of “team”. The net effect is predictable: silos within teams. Research has shown my experience to be prevalent and related to inattention of cause-effect relationships between people and their environment, plus absent knowledge of base conditions which invite teamwork (Devine et al., 1999). Continue reading

Cross-Post: “Seeing the System With the WADE Matrix”

I’ve written a post in collaboration with Derek Wade to share a wonderful retrospective technique I learned from him. The “WADE Matrix” is a simple design to help retrospective participants identify opportunities for improvement, as well as see the cause-effect relationship of the system (beyond the team). This retro format has been my “go-to” method for new teams, new facilitators, and anyone interested in systems thinking.

Colleen Johnson, co-founder of ScatterSpoke (a highly recommended digital tool for facilitating retrospectives), has kindly hosted the article on her ScatterSpoke blog. You can learn about this retrospective technique by following the link below – enjoy!

Continue reading

Is Your Agile an Antique?

words

From the point I first discovered Agile in 2005, Joshua Kerievsky has been one of my “self-invited remote mentors”. In other words, Josh provided guidance and mentoring from afar through his writing and speaking – and without the slightest idea of who I am.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to meet Josh at Agile Open San Diego. In the confines of open space, Josh convened a session that invited participants to explore his recent “Modern Agile” paper, which formulates a new lens of thought into the evolution of Agile over the years. (If you haven’t read “Modern Agile”, you’re missing out – do that first!)

On the second day of open space, Josh convened an additional session to explore a juxtaposition of “modern” versus “antiquated” Agile. This got me thinking: is it harmful for us to label some practices “antique”? Continue reading

Real Values in Hiring

seedlings

Earlier this month, Jason Kerney–a team member at Hunter Industries and practitioner of mob programming–wrote an article detailing the interview process his team uses for bringing new people into “the Mob”.

This post dives into Jason’s narrative covering the principles that challenge the convention of hiring and seemingly radical tactics that answer a simple question: what is the difference between hiring a person and filling a position? Continue reading

Can I Change Your Mind?

hypnosis

Recently, I had a very enjoyable conversation with a group of successful, talented software leaders regarding Agile. More specifically, many of the topics shared underlying assumptions about the role of Agile to create structure in the place of chaos and align people towards a common goal.

As part of the conversation, we eventually reached a point where a question was posed (in my best paraphrase): “How can we measure a person’s effectiveness in changing people’s minds?”

I felt that all-too-familiar sense of discomfort and asked if “changing peoples’ minds” is a responsibility or requirement of a job, whether it be a change management role, team coach (e.g., a ScrumMaster), or anything in-between. Some in the group expressed the validity and importance of such a measurement; thus, I’ll explore a question within: should it be our job to change peoples’ minds? Continue reading

Brilliant People Working Together

kids_team

In sharing the message of mob programming, Woody Zuill coined a phrase: “All the brilliant people working on the same thing, at the same time, in the same space, and on the same computer.

Programming aside, I’ve always enjoyed this quote because it speaks to my personal career experiences thus far. In short, I don’t particularly think I’m “brilliant” or full of inspiring ideas. I’ve been able to do a few successful things here and there on my own, but they pale in comparison to what I’ve achieved with people/teams. Therefore, this post is a simple invitation to collaborate and work together by sharing our ideas… and I offer this blog space in whatever capacity might be useful! Continue reading

Rubbish, Folly, and Hiring

blind

This is not a rant caused by a spell of unemployment, nor is it a cry for help or an invitation to a raging pity-party. This is a reminder of the convention of hiring knowledge workers, especially within the software industry, that we allow to coerce our decision making at the expense of our organizations.

In fact, the thoughts in this post have little to do with my present lack of an employer, even while knee-deep in wildly ineffective hiring conversations. Instead, this post primarily contains notes from past engagements where the hiring process felt like throwing darts blindfolded. Continue reading

If Only to be Heard

Image courtesy of Renate Dodell via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dorena-wm/
Image courtesy of Renate Dodell via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dorena-wm/

In starting new engagements or meeting co-workers and team mates for the first time, one of the first interactions I seek is deep listening to two simple questions:

What do you feel?
What do you need?

These two basic questions contain so much potential for discovery: there is nothing so fundamentally human than our feelings and desires. And, as my experiences have taught me, these are two of the most often neglected (even discouraged) aspects of humanity in our places of work. Continue reading

The Machine Doesn’t Run on Theory

gears

I recently sat down to chat with a company looking for help with a Scrummy / traditional / Agile-to-us / status quo / project manager / ScrumMaster type position. One of those common positions that companies open up to see what Agile looks like without actually changing anything at all.

As I sat down to interview with the two directors, given the obvious inconsistencies with Agile principles in the job description, I was there to vet them just as much as they likely wanted to interrogate me.

I wanted to hear about culture and team-centric work systems. They wanted to hear about control and tactics. You can imagine how the conversation went and a quote from one of the directors stuck with me:

“In the absence of specific tactics that you will use here, all you have is theory. And our business doesn’t run on theory.”

Continue reading