Category Archives: Management

The Importance of Shared Purpose

My latest blog is actually one written for my employer here in the United States, Code Genesys.

You can take a look at it here and is on the importance of shared purpose.  Keep practicing that because it’s hard for first timers and anyone whose experienced for that matter.  Well worth the investment in time 🙂

I have an example of a company who go to great lengths to maintain their purpose.  An old blog article written 2 years ago.

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Best Posts for 2015

Not as many posts as the previous year with just 36.  However the blog received more views that the previous year.

The Most Popular

Again, my review of L.David Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around was the most popular.  Seems like a popular book and the author regularly recommends looking it up.   My series on Personal Kanban has trended well again but a long way back in the field.  The blog on Realizing the Power of Agile Testing was initially popular.

Blog stats 2015

My Favourites

2015’s favourites includes the case study on Agile Testing entitled Realizing the Power of Agile Testing.  It was initially very popular through some sharing on Twitter and Linked In.  Not a popular subject for web key word search it seems so it’s popularity was fleeting.  The message is still powerful.

A blog added at the end of the year and received a number of hits (96 in two weeks – not bad considering overall hits to the blog) was a tip for those doing scrum to add workflow to their task boards.  It’s called Avoid the Workflow Masquerade.  I expect that to continue to be popular this year.

The Controversial Ones

This item on making the best of your abilities is controversial because it challenges some poor behaviours which are for the most part condoned but ultimately reduce the effectiveness of teams and the ability to hire new people.

The Unloved Ones

This one would also be termed controversial.  It’s a rant about the bad behaviours at work.  It has some tips at the end though.  Didn’t get much love due to the nature of the article I suspect.

Looking forward to a new year of blogging in 2015.

Happy New Year – All the Best – Nick


The Ladder of Leadership and Kanban

Here’s a comparison of David Marquet’s Ladder of Leadership which derives from his work as a nuclear submarine captain and writing his book Turn the Ship Around and then subsequent workshops and writings and the Kanban Method.

The Kanban Method says start where you are.  Other frameworks require a more explicit transformation to new roles and ceremonies.  The Kanban Method also says Improve Collaboratively and Evolve Experimentally (using models and the scientific method).  Of it’s 9 values it also states Leadership.  Acts of Leadership from every level.

A model that you can use to improve and create leadership from everyone is called the Ladder of Leadership (although not explicitly steeped in the scientific method, it is a model).  It starts where you are.  Everyone, and this doesn’t matter what position one holds, is looking to be told what to do.  This is where mostly everyone is.

The Ladder of Leadership recognizes this.  Everyone can use the model as a frame to help each move up the ladder to become more intentional.  By recognizing where someone is on the ladder whilst in conversation, a colleague can frame a question using the next rung on the opposite side of the ladder.

The Ladder of Leadership – Capt. Marquet

Measurement of success comes via a proxy from other measurements like faster cycle times, better quality (less failure demand) and people should be happier and if they aren’t something is still awry.

It takes some time to achieve this.  One must be prepared to stay the course despite the bumps in the road.  If it doesn’t work on one occasion, reflect upon that.  Realize we are humans, have a laugh and try again using what you’ve learnt.  The ultimate aim is to create leaders not followers.  Leaders can relieve bottlenecks and fix problems quicker and with more knowledge than someone further away from the problem.


Edits to my Personal Manifesto

I documented my personal manifesto originally in this link.  It was useful to get it down on paper rather than a tacit understanding.  I think I should sharpen it up a bit.  It’s the same mostly – some wording has been modified.  I’m asking people to call me out when I err.

G(enuine) – Be honest, forthright and fair rather than vague, fake and invulnerable

R(espect) – Actively listen and respect (not necessarily agree with) the views of others rather than jump to hasty conclusions

I(ntegrity) – Uphold good human values and principles and avoid situations that are opposite to these

T(ransparency) – Be open about why, what and how rather than obfuscate, obscure or opaque

S(incere) –  Mean what we say via actions rather than being glib, hollow and lack of follow through.

Whilst we try and be all things on the left we sometimes recognize we fall into the poor behaviours on the right and seek to correct that.


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.


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.


Hans only wanted to better himself

Hans, not his real name, was a colleague I worked with who was wrongly maligned by management and others as well.

He wanted to improve and seek out other areas to be involved in. His style was wrongly interpreted. Management regarded him as someone to have a chuckle about, behind his back. He was told he could get what he wanted but that was just a smokescreen.

When he wasn’t around he would come up as a subject of mirthful derision and ridicule. For instance, “I can’t wait til he finally leaves, ha ha ha” which drew some nervous laughter from others and downright agreement from others.

This was bad behaviour. Why would management not want to encourage someone to become better. Why should his reasonable human reactions be cause for further derision.

Instead of blaming the individual, seek to create the environment and conditions for him and others to further excel. That’s leadership and is sorely missing in many workplace environments.

Mentoring, Training, Support are words that immediately come to mind. Recognition that Hans was misunderstood is a step in the right direction.

to-be-great-is-to-be-misunderstood-quote-1