Ok to be Mediocre, Ok to want to Improve

Last week I posted the following to twitter, somewhat inspired by Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk on the Pecking Order and also by my own experiences in being interviewed and interviewing applicants for jobs (some ideas captured here in a earlier post/rant on broader dysfunctions).

Elitistism preventing New Hires

Some questions in interviews are valid but when it takes a demeaning, condescending tone – that’s when you know you’re in trouble.

Friend and colleague, Ryan Musgrave, in response, posted this video from Jacob Kaplan-Mosson (a self confessed mediorce programmer), which is related to the subject.  Those 10x programmers that some dream of hiring just aren’t as thick on the ground.  In fact hiring them could also reduce the through put of your team (read Five Dysfunctions of a Team to get a real life account of this).

We mostly fall in the middle for talent

We mostly fall in the middle for talent

We mostly fall in the middle of a normal distribution as the video explains.  It’s time to stop dreaming of hiring superstars and look to develop the skills of high potential applicants.  They needn’t know the Agile Principles off by heart or recite every little bit of Object Oriented doctrine that could easily be memorized anyway.

Look to test applicants on more meaningful questions about how they deal with technical problems, how they learn, how they deal with people problems.  Again these need not be perfect answers but should give you a feeling of potentiality.  Ultimately a good applicant wants to develop mastery in what they do.  Think of questions that will give you clues to this and give you a feeling of genuineness.

Ultimately Values, Principles and Philosophy should align best they can.  If your own Vision is strong then finding those who want to follow should not be hard.  As those looking to hire, perhaps starting there and looking inwards is the place to start.

Those feeling belittled by by the superstar programmer, take solace, also look inward and look to get the best out of yourself.  If your a superstar programmer and maybe not as generous to others in the team, you can improve as well by helping others to improve technically.  Collaboration is hard but does reap many benefits personally and for others and for the bottom line.

Sultry Sunday Summer Sunrise in Chattanooga

The coolest part of the day in humid Chattanooga.  28 degrees Celsius can easily feel like 38 degrees Celsius during the day.  Sunday morning is the quietest and stillest part of the week and more apt to capturing the city still asleep.

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Ask Why – To Understand

This is a follow on post from my post called Ask How (Don’t say No). Sometimes in some situations it makes more sense to Ask Why to increase understanding.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a passionate conversation about a topic.  Someone says something, perhaps in a strident tone, this can force a reaction from others that implies that what has been said is wrong.  The response can stop conversation dead in it’s tracks as processing of the remarks take place.

Now a facilitator can help keep the conversation going and relieve the tension and let the point carry on to it’s final conclusion.  We don’t have a facilitator all the time though, so we can train ourselves to react quickly still but thoughtfully as well.

I suggest the first response is ‘Why?’, ‘Why do you say that?’  This could help create a response that helps the person retrieve an important item that adds further context.  Sometimes excitement causes that person to forget to mention that important piece of context.  Asking Why is an Open Question and keeps the conversation going rather than perhaps escalating into an out and out disagreement.

People in Boston – American Independence Day 2015

A trip to the Ball Game at Fenway Park and some interesting characters on the streets of downtown Boston.









Moving to the United States

An opportunity has arisen for me to travel to the United States to help out with a large transformation using Scrumban (combining Scrum, Agile and Lean Kanban).  CodeGenesys a company that specializes in consulting in this area has invited me to come over and help out with the transformation at a large Health Insurance company.  CodeGenesys also make a online visualization board called ScrumDo which I have written about in the blog articles Managing work with ScrumDo – Part 1 and Managing work with ScrumDo – Part 2.

About Agile still operates and the courses and training are still available.  They will be available on an as needed basis in Australia and elsewhere and will be subject to my availability.  So inquiries are still welcome. I hope to give training in the United States as well.  I will look to schedule public classes again after settling down in the US and the picture becomes clearer.

My relationship with CodeGenesys will be a symbiotic relationship.  I hope to learn a lot from my secondment to the US  and spread new knowledge on my return back to Australia.  Training from CodeGenesys will be combined with the About Agile courses to offer a greater suite of courses.

These will combine with consulting and coaching to provide a full array of services to help out with transformations and ongoing improvement efforts.

My time in the US will be at least 6 months and depending on conditions could go on for longer.

Please stay in touch through my email address info@aboutagile.com.  I tweet through the handle @n_zdunic.

Check Your Spots

A few weeks ago a friend pointed out a spot on my shoulder that looked a little odd to her.  I just thought it is was a freckle.  If it weren’t for her I would have ignored it.

Do you have a spot like this?  When magnified they look worse.  See the color difference?

Do you have a spot like this? When magnified they look worse. See the color difference?

It turns out that I went and had it checked – it’s in the picture above. The doctor at my local GP practice wasn’t sure either but he suggested erring on the side of caution and we had it cut off and sent for testing.  The test results indicated that it was malignant and to take another 5 mm section out.  This was done this week and the test results are negative.

My advice for you is avoid long exposure to the sun, especially in Australia.  Cover up and use 50+ sun block when in the sun.  Use the molescan service or similar checkups to check your spots.  Have your friend or partner check for you.  Everyone can also take notice of any spots and alert friends and partner’s to anything that looks odd.

I’m not totally out the woods even though the result was negative.  There is another spot on my back to be removed and tested.  The picture of that one is below.


Be be removed – notice the same sort of uneven discolouration as the first picture?

Knowing who your Customer Is, Is Useful

Most people involved in the development of solutions, be it software or otherwise, don’t get exposed to the customer or get a view of the customer that is filtered through someone else’s eyes like a Business Analyst or Product Manager.

Agile methods recognize that involving everyone in the process is useful to gain insights and empathy toward the customer.  For some not used to this it can feel ‘weird’.  Who needs this soft stuff.

However knowing the soft stuff is going to help deliver the hard stuff with greater accuracy (not precision).

A tool that assist is the Customer Empathy map that I have attendees to my Fundamentals of Agile course undertake.  They don’t feel confident about it, they feel like it’s ‘weird’.  However during the course of the exercise they soon pick up on the idea and find out things that they probably would not have thought of otherwise.


Even if the answers feel wrong, persist in this exercise.  That feeling of uncertainty or ‘weirdness’ will build to confidence and a feeling that we know more of the purpose of the product that we want to produce.

Hopefully we all feel happier with the end result, customer and supplier alike.


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