Category Archives: Management

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.



Some Causes of Dysfunctional Workplaces

Here are some real observations over 25 years of working in software development and in volunteer organisations as well.  I can give specific anecdotes for each and every one of these listed anti patterns.  I can be contacted privately to share only via a voice conversation.  I also wouldn’t want to be recorded for fear of retribution or legal action (in fact it should be the reverse, should be illegal to allow these behaviours).
Many people relate to these issues because they tell me them also and the research confirms that with 9 out of 10 people unhappy at work .  They are afraid to voice an opinion and rightly so.  They want better but are fearful because they have families to support and can’t risk losing a job or going backward.  Those unnamed people should be acknowledged and this is their anonymous voice through me.
The issues being raised mean that people suffer and when people suffer then the company as a whole will suffer.   Ill performing teams means work is not done to the best of everyone’s ability.  Absenteeism goes up and is a further cost impediment to the company.  People take their work problems home and take it out on their family making for a inharmonious home life.  They bring this feeling back to work and the cycle continues.
 Note some of these are similar but are stated again to imply a subtlety that ought to be acknowledged.  I regretfully acknowledge that I’ve been a perpetrator of some of these wrongs driven by what I’ve observed in the workplace – that is it appears to be condoned behaviour and some don’t even realise that it’s a problem and that it is normal.
Some or even all of these apply to employees as well, but we single out management as they need to lead and should be leading through actions otherwise why be in this position.
 I’m sorry to say that some people marketing themselves at Agile Coaches and Consultants exhibited these (anti-)patterns.  But I guess we all need to learn including myself.  That includes standing up for what is right and just.
 Now, you may not agree with the list, parts of it or the whole idea of it.  To that I point you to another blog post entitled You don’t have to agree, You have to take notice –  and is my response to this.
After this list I’ve provided some resources on how you can improve.  It’s not just a rant but a rant with proposed solutions.  It’s a small starting but it’s a starting point.
 Finally I will use this to help myself improve. Knowing is the first step. If you attend an interview with me expect some of these to mentioned as questions framed as either have you experienced this and what did you about it or have you been guilty of any of these and what did you do correct it.  They way you answer will determine if I use you.  It will filter out a lot of people but then again I only want the best.

The List (which could grow)

  1. Asking for estimates and then taking them as commitments
  2. Providing estimates for work they aren’t going to be doing
  3. Taking estimates and applying a factor either up or down.  That’s right I don’t trust you.
  4. Publicizing an arbitrary deadline without asking anyone else first.  Especially prevalent in companies listed on the stock market.
  5. Playing the blame game when a publicized deadline like the above is not met.
  6. Asking employees to cut corners in favour of an ill-conceived short term goal mostly in their own self interest
  7. Telling employees who know how to do their job how to do their job, especially when they aren’t the expert
  8. Asking someone to do something knowing that they may not have the right skills or fall just short and then chastise them when they do in fact come up short
  9. Related not creating a learning opportunity with it’s accompanying expected failure points that allows someone to increase their skills
  10. Providing an unsafe work environment: physical, psychological and emotional
  11. Using expletives/profanity during a meeting to cover over a weakness or to feign a form of bravado
  12. Not apologising for using expletives/profanity as if it were a right that no one else holds
  13. Permits and/or uses slurs (racial, sexual, social background) assuming that everyone is Ok with that
  14. Seeks others to ‘cheer them on’ when they have an axe to grind further encouraging base human behaviour in others
  15. Willingly treat outside contractors and suppliers with contempt.  Permits others to do the same.  Used as a tactic to think a contractor can come on board full time because they will then get better treatment in return
  16. Permits others to treat outside contractors and suppliers with disdainful behaviour and slights.  Almost the same as the previous except they didn’t really start it but still happy to condone it
  17. Instilling fear into employees such that their only way of expressing issues and problems is to whine about during a break when management isn’t present
  18. To meekly acknowledge an issue but not follow up.  Lip service to better management.
  19. Seeking to put themselves forward at the expense of their team, which encourages subordinates to think that this is just the way it is for it to be repeated elsewhere
  20. Condoning less than civil behaviour amongst employees.  For example allowing attacks either aggressive or passive, reasoning that this is just the way it is.  Refusal to acknowledge this as bad behaviour
  21. Reflects bad behaviour by using it as a lever to coerce others to fall into line
  22. Allowing a culture of intolerance to differences
  23. Resorts to firing of employees rather than discussion when a problem arises or a personality conflict occurs
  24. Hiring someone and then when they don’t come up to expectations are immediately marched out and humiliated.
  25. Refusal to defend employees against an unreasonable customer
  26. Making false promises to coerce compliance.
  27. Exuding a power persona, that they laud over others.
  28. Wantonly flaunting privileges of a position.  It’s visible to others and they know it.
  29. When subjected to false promises themselves do not follow up with the promise.  Talks behind their back about the false promise.
  30. When hearing of a false promise not offering to follow up on behalf of the aggrieved party – the complaint is actually a request
  31. Make (what turn out to be) erroneous or fake gestures/claims.  Not following up to explain hoping it ‘blows over’
  32. Not attending to the needs of employees to grow and feel that they are appreciated
  33. Making employees the villains when problems arise
  34. Happy/relieved to let good employees go as they were a threat anyway
  35. Overriding the thoughts and decisions of employees because ‘you know best’ and ‘you need to be seen to exert your authority’
  36. Bosses of bosses condoning and allowing bad behaviour because they are needed to be seen to support who’ve they’ve put in place
  37. Preferring to make snide comments sometimes the other party is not present rather than provide meaningful feedback.  It’s more funny and others may get a chuckle out of it
  38. Make comments/gossips behind people’s backs rather then confronting the real issue
  39. Body Language, the feeling that is exuded indicating this is how you should have done it
  40. Body Language, the feeling that is exuded indicating that you should have know this already
  41. Body Language, the feeling that is exuded indicating that your not ready to be considered part of the group
  42. Not providing a welcome for a new employee – ignoring them, not offering to take them out if from out of town
  43. Allowing a contractor to be treated as a second class citizen and condoning derogatory comments about the contractor and to the contractor
  44. Believes their emotional well being is more important than employees and therefore it’s Ok to go off, get mad but not allow the same of employees
  45. Does not see that a complaint is really a request.  Will portray the complainer as just another moaner and whinger
  46. Says they will do something but actually using it as a tool to better their own position because it will cause failure for others
  47. Does not provide information.  “need to know basis’ is an anti-pattern
  48. Thinks nepotism is a good thing.  ‘My brother, my wife, my girlfriend can do this job’  implies arrogance and self interest
  49. Believes dissent to be a bad thing.  Can’t have employees injecting another opinion
  50. Believes a quiet meeting is a good meeting.  They are doing what I tell them
  51. Will use sex as a tool.  e.g. Women will use alluring and sometimes even crude gestures (touching) to cover weakness.  Men will resort to innuendo in a passive aggressive stance.
  52. Intolerant to failure.  Will not accept failure and will record it as a negative against an employee.  Promotes a culture of ‘It’s better to not be wrong’
  53. Encouraging a complaining culture by complaining oneself and not seeking to address the complaints of others and themselves. Laizez Faire attitude
  54. Congratulating bad behaviour like saying ‘They handled that tricky situation well’  ‘He’s a real political animal, not many can handle themselves like that’ – hiding an impediment actually
  55. Don’t think they need to get any better.  Doesn’t read books, attend seminars or give seminars.  ‘I’m a manager because I now this stuff already’
  56. Disrespectful use of nicknames without a rapport established, e.g. Hey Davo, Paulo.
  57. Brazenly takes credit for what others have found or created. Take it as their own and doesn’t acknowledge others.
  58. Will not thank someone for their work when they leave because they don’t like them.
  59. Worse, do not organise a leaving ceremony like everyone else gets to send a message.  Rather it says your heartless
  60. Not standing up for a colleague when you and others know that a wrong has been committed against that person
  61. Failing to be learn lessons and apply learnings from those lessons.  Often reviews are performed but it’s a lip service.  No tangiable outcomes arise
  62. Failing to maintain an improvement backlog.  A tangible way to track improvement rather than lip service and hope for the best
  63. Not being accountable to team goals and seeks to blame others when things go wrong
  64. Happy to perpetuate a blame and recrimination culture because that is the way it is and it’s normal
  65. Adept at performing the Cover Your Ass Manoeuvrer and then openly celebrating it and accepting plaudits for it
  66. Failing to be of service to employees, that is not practising Servant Leadership.  That is we need to look after the needs of others so that we may all succeed as well
  67. Allows a situation to fester out of a misplaced loyalty.  Related to the HiPPO syndrome.  Meanwhile ideas and alternatives are ignored.
  68. Casts those who provide suggestions, ideas and alternatives as disloyal villains of the HiPPOs
  69. Allowing the HiPPOs to take on jobs or roles for which they are lacking skill when others have the skills required
  70. Allowing HiPPOs to bury other ideas and accepting flimsy reasoning for allowing it to occur
  71. Allow traditional requirements knowing they are wasteful to the client because it means more billing hours. This creates disharmony for the client and the workers. Should use an Agile Contract.
  72. Using the requirements to shoehorn another product that isn’t needed. Taking advantage of customer ignorance, but it comes back to bite when the budget is absorbed and it doesn’t work.
  73. Assuming others do not have the ability to manage and condemning them for it
  74. Failure is Ok as long as it vindicates my own position
  75. Maintains siloes of information.  Doesn’t allow information to be shared between groups.  Doesn’t share information with team members.  Prevents good information from reaching others that could help them achieve their goals.
  76. Thinking that every problem needs to be solved by them negating/nullifying the capability of the team.  Arrogance.
  77. More generally thinking that employees have to be told what to do and must always ask what to do next.  Same theme as the previous, arrogance and assuming the team will not function without them
  78. Thinking burnout is a failure of the employee rather than a symptom of a bad system of work
  79. Thinking that keeping everyone busy by overloading is more efficient.  The busy work paradox.  Not Limiting WIP
  80. Thinking that employees do not need slack to learn new stuff, to recharge and to reconnect.
  81. Working longer than 8 hours a day thinking that your effective.  This is only short term, long term you’ll feel it
  82. Claiming that reading a document at home over dinner is chargeable to the client – greedy
  83. Resorting to snide comments as a way of dealing with a comment or suggestion that you don’t like
  84. Causing the health of employees to fail due to overwork or emotional exertion.  Some even result in death.
  85. Immediately criticizing the detail of a suggestion and therefore negating the validity of a suggestion as a whole. A Fear Response.
  86. Holds a meeting looking for ideas but then focuses on those that align with their own
  87. Admonishing in public rather than providing feedback in a private yet positive setting
  88. Maneuvering to covertly remove someone from a team via meetings and conversations and to then spring it on the poor unfortunate person.
  89. A derogatory comment designed to support a superior who feels challenged by someone else’s question.  Suits them better for their own goals and purposes.
  90. Sidelining or worse ostracizing introverts making their input appear less valuable
  91. Complaining about introverted behaviour, they should be more outgoing, rather than accepting people as they are and helping them grow and helping them to utilize their natural talent
  92. Related but more general, immediately discounting the thoughts of others because the opinion of the HiPPO counts more
  93. Upon seeing someone not tapping on a keyboard automatically thinking that they are slacking off.  I’m paying you to code not think.
  94. An employee doesn’t immediately understand a new concept or instruction and conveys this.  Subsequently this is held against them, they must be below par.
  95. Upon receiving new information or a new concept, silence is taken as acceptance.  Later on when something goes wrong as a result, it’s the always the employee’s fault.
  96. Not providing training and support for an employee who needs to improve in a weak area.  Better to move them on.
  97. Using and emotional release or outburst from someone against them, speaking ill-will of them
  98. Encouraging a Hero culture.  Heroes get stuff done.  Actually the reverse is true and teams get things done faster than Heroes.  Teams mean there is no weak link
  99. Similar yet different to be mentioned, playing favourites which results in others being favoured over others for the wrong reasons (mostly)
  100. Again similar, protecting some from consequences whilst others are not.  Overall, protection from consequences is not good.
  101. When listening we are actively looking to refute
  102. Doesn’t ensure a there is no weak link by neglecting to create an environment of cross pollination, cross training, knowledge sharing and mutual support amongst team members
  103. Confusing uncertainty with weakness.  Being certain implies arrogance and does let other opinions exist
  104. Thinking that talking to oneself (e.g. Rubber Ducking) is a weakness and saying something that will stop someone doing it like ‘Your going mad’.
  105. Admonishing others when they appear to show ‘weakness’
  106. Creating a stressed environment by stating at the start that you’ve only got one chance or your out
  107. Confusing silence with harmony.  Silence can mean artificial harmony and absence of useful conflict.
  108. Forcing consensus even when consensus is not really present therefore ignoring potential showstoppers
  109. Not committing to removal of obstacles like lack of information about requirements, not having the tooling to perform a job effectively, quickly and with quality
  110. Committing to performing work when you and everyone knows that something is not needed and is a wasted effort
  111. Committing to performing work when you and everyone else knows that there is not enough information to perform the work
  112. Disallowing others to seek information when information is lacking
  113. Is vengeful and seeks retribution when told something that doesn’t agree with them.
  114. Delivers information in a way that will invite a vengeful response in the future, generally untraceable to the previous incident(s)
  115. Barring employees from talking to customers because its seen that there should only be one funnel of information
  116. When hearing of a new improvement seeks to hide it or discount it because it would not suit their own purposes or damage their perceived standing amongst others.  Cites reasons to cover this up that ring hollow.
  117. Brings in outside consultants to tell them what the insiders have already told them and then chooses to ignore or rubbish the findings.
  118. Using email to relay news. Email is a copout for direct communication.
  119. Allow oneself to be exposed to Insider information (listed company) which results in strange decisions that favour personal gain at the expense of others.  Strangely congratulated if you can achieve this.
  120. Use of the excuse ‘Too busy’ – means there is a root cause being ignored
  121. Finding an excuse rather than a reason
  122. Related – using the excuses for not following up in a timely and respectful manner
  123. Creating excuses to create a barrier that prevents the real problem from being seen.  Other need to deal with the emotional obfuscation.
  124. Having the perpetual blind eye.  As long as it doesn’t effect me then why bother.
  125. Saying that we are running an Agile project but then carrying on like a traditional project manager and handing out tasks instead of allowing self organisation.
  126. Publicizing a project as being an Agile project and even writing articles about it when events like the previous dysfunction and many other wastes occur.
  127. Saying that they are Agile but not stating against which benchmark or not demonstrating principles from the Agile Manifesto.  Egocentric self assessment designed to validate oneself in front of others.
  128. Superficially labelling people causing them to be pigeon holed and not able to grow, they wont last long as employees and will move on by themselves.
  129. Using the above a tactic to passively remove someone who’s getting in your way
  130. Thinking the best way to change someone is to command them to change
  131. The second last one and almost the best, not apologizing for any of the above mentioned behaviours
  132. Finally, the best one, recognising any of the above and not doing anything to correct it.
 Here are some resources to help correct these.
  • Read Books – Marquet, Lencioni, Agile Literature on Coaching, Management 3.0, Emotional Intelligence
  • Coaching Courses – Esther Derby, Lyssa Adkins, Linda Rising
  • Training/Transformation Companies – Adapt By Design
  • Websites:
    • Lolly Daskal – good example on not being a sycophant from, she posts on as well
    • Christopher Avery writes on everyone taking responsibility
    • Juergen Appelo,,,
  • A fantastic video from Joshua Kerievsky on Anzeneering
  • Use twitter and follow these people
  • Use LinkedIn/Twitter to ask for help
  • Act your way to better behaviour.  Pick some items to improve on and recognise when those behaviours occur and try to take the right track rather than the old wrong track
  • Provide Life Coaching to help you and employees deal with life’s little struggles at work and at home

Best Posts for 2014

Reflecting back on this past year of blogging I’d thought I’d summarize the best posts of the year.  Some have been controversial and some have garnered a lot of interest.  I find the act of blogging helps me think through mental models.  They may be wrong and putting them up for scrutiny helps correct them or reinforce those models if mostly correct.

There was some 80 posts created this year.  Some of them are long at 2000 words or more and take a few hours to create.  Getting started on those can be difficult but then satisfying in the end.

The Most Popular

My review of L.David Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around was the most popular mainly because my review was heartfelt.  The book really connected with me and the author also tweeted it and refers others to it for a summary.  My series on Personal Kanban was quite popular as well.


My Favourites

Again, my review of Turn the Ship Around is a favourite. My review of a Lean Enterprise presentation by Barry O’Reilly and Gary O’Brien was more controversial but still earned a like from Barry O’Reilly.

The Controversial Ones

The review of Lean Enterprise got at least one visceral response.  I also wrote about my feeling of dysfunctional teams after seeing the Hangover Picture constantly posted on LinkedIn.  I feel this got criticized for the wrong reasons as those criticisms ignored the feeling’s of myself and others and negated them by saying that those feeling were not valid.  This is in fact poor leadership and disregards the role of dissent in correcting incorrect behaviours.  It reminds me of my policy on listening, in my Policies section, which I feel many people struggle with.

The Unloved Ones

I really enjoyed interviewing Tadhg McCarthy of Adapt By Design.  Culture eats strategy for breakfast as stated by Peter Drucker.  This interview should have received more exposure.

Honourable Mentions

There are some more reviews in the Reviews section of my blog.  Reviews of Slack by Tom DeMarco and Scrum Product Ownership by Robert Galen deserve a mention.  My blog also paid more emphasis of the human side of work.  This article at the beginning of the year is one my my personal best, admitting that we all need to be better.

Some articles on improving work practices were included this year.  I quite liked this one on the role of the Business Analyst in the Agile Team.  Being prepared to fail and recognizing that this is a valuable thing was touched on in this article on my experience with Test Driven Development.

Looking forward to a new year of blogging in 2015.

All the Best – Nick

Agile Journey Index Assessments now Available

My company, About Agile, is now offering Agile Assessments using the Agile Journey Index.  If you’re interested in starting your journey or just improving along the journey this is a great way to start and About Agile can help you along the road as well.

More information is available at the Agile Assessments page on the About Agile website.

Agile and Lean Bookshelf

Some books on lean and agile software development.  The list is still in development.  I’ve read all of these books and will not place books here that I have not read. Some books resonate more than others, but still don’t expect instant recall of all the detail – rather the key ideas and concepts and then drive into the detail if required.

You’ll find some books are relevant to more than one section, so they will be repeated in the sections in which they have relevance.

The Lean and Lean Startup Side

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated  The archetype Lean book for the Western Reader from leaders in the field. Real life case studies of people over process.
This is Lean: Resolving the Efficiency Paradox
Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean Series)
Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business  Start with this for Kanban, let it sink in, read others and then come back to this.
Leading Lean Software Development: Results Are not the Point
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
Kanban in Action  I nice start for those wanting to learn about Kanban, don’t ignore David Anderson’s book though!
The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win  Systems Thinking for IT People.  Be nice to those Brent’s they only work in a system.
Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban
Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both (Enterprise Software Development)
Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life
Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility
Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit
Lean Enterprise: Adopting Continuous Delivery, DevOps, and Lean Startup at Scale

The Agile and Lean Frameworks Side

Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners: Agile Tactics, Tools, & Tips (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business
Scrumban – Essays on Kanban Systems for Lean Software Development (Modus Cooperandi Lean)
The Scrumban [R]Evolution: Getting the Most Out of Agile, Scrum, and Lean Kanban (Agile Software Development Series)
Real-World Kanban: Do Less, Accomplish More with Lean Thinking
Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products (2nd Edition)
Agile Software Development with Scrum (Series in Agile Software Development)
Kanban in Action
Agile Project Management with Kanban (Developer Best Practices)
Agile Project Management with Scrum (Developer Best Practices)
Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban
Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both (Enterprise Software Development)
Software in 30 Days: How Agile Managers Beat the Odds, Delight Their Customers, And Leave Competitors In the Dust
Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change, 2nd Edition (The XP Series)
Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit
Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum
The Art of Agile Development
Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner’s Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise (IBM Press)
Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise (Agile Software Development Series)
Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises
The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility
Scrum and XP from the Trenches (Enterprise Software Development)
Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction

The Technical Side

Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software
Pair Programming Illuminated
ATDD by Example: A Practical Guide to Acceptance Test-Driven Development (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Beck))
Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams
The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers (Robert C. Martin Series)
Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship
Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction, Second Edition
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master
Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests
Agile Software Development, Principles, Patterns, and Practices
Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
Refactoring to Patterns
Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Fowler))
Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk
Test Driven Development: By Example
Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture Volume 1: A System of Patterns
Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture Volume 2: Patterns for Concurrent and Networked Objects
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
Extreme Programming Applied: Playing to Win
Writing Solid Code (20th Anniversary 2nd Edition)
Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions
Working Effectively with Legacy Code
Dependency Injection in .NET
Effective Unit Testing: A guide for Java developers
The Art of Unit Testing: with Examples in .NET
Pragmatic Unit Testing in C# with NUnit

The Product Ownership and Agile Requirements Side

User Story Mapping
Scrum Product Ownership: Balancing Value from the Inside Out
Working Effectively with Legacy Code
User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development
Agile Estimating and Planning
Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
Impact Mapping: Making a Big Impact with Software Products and Projects
Specification by Example: How Successful Teams Deliver the Right Software
Bridging the Communication Gap: Specification by Example and Agile Acceptance Testing
The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development

The Agile Tester Side

Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams
More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team
The Cucumber Book: Behaviour-Driven Development for Testers and Developers (Pragmatic Programmers)
Testing for Continuous Delivery with Visual Studio 2012 (Microsoft patterns & practices)
ATDD by Example: A Practical Guide to Acceptance Test-Driven Development (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Beck))
Lean-Agile Acceptance Test-Driven Development: Better Software Through Collaboration (Net Objectives Lean-Agile Series)
Specification by Example: How Successful Teams Deliver the Right Software
Bridging the Communication Gap: Specification by Example and Agile Acceptance Testing
xUnit Test Patterns: Refactoring Test Code
Explore It!: Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing
Effective Unit Testing: A guide for Java developers
The Art of Unit Testing: with Examples in .NET
Pragmatic Unit Testing in C# with NUnit

The People Side

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (3rd Edition)
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork and the Myth of Total Efficiency
Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))
Death March (2nd Edition)
Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great
Software for Your Head: Core Protocols for Creating and Maintaining Shared Vision
The Core Protocols: A Guide to Greatness
Professional Software Development: Shorter Schedules, Higher Quality Products, More Successful Projects, Enhanced Careers
Dynamics of Software Development
Debugging the Development Process: Practical Strategies for Staying Focused, Hitting Ship Dates, and Building Solid Teams
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition)
Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews
The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully
Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams & Projects
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Principles Of Software Engineering Management
Emotional Intelligence 2.0
How to Win Friends & Influence People
Smart Questions: The Essential Strategy for Successful Managers
Great Boss Dead Boss Recommended by David Anderson in KCP Training. A model of identity.
Lessons in Agile Management: On the Road to Kanban
Thinking, Fast and Slow Science on how parts of the brain work. Involuntary vs Logical parts
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides) Judging or helping? Which is more helpful?

 The Organisational Side

Reinventing Organizations
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace
The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results
Why Plans Fail: Why Business Decision Making is More than Just Business (MemeMachine) (Volume 1)

 The Coaching Side

the act of coaching is distinct from the People and Organisational Sides although strongly linked

Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn)) It’s a start but it won’t be enough
Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart: A Systems Approach to Engaging Leaders with Their Challenges For real meat on the act of coaching. Years of experience here
Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives More meat on the idea that people have the ability to solve/change/improve their lives. Partnership wit a coach
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever A good start, go to other sources still for more detail
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas Build that muscle of inquiry first before jumping to a solution
Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used A consultant’s book every coach should have!

Leadership in Crisis – Cause of Many Problems

You see this everywhere.  Disrespectful, selfish and inhumane behaviour up and down the the entire food chain.  We really need to be better.  Seddon talks about Failure Demand, and we see in this video the worst sort of failure demand has been measured and it’s incredibly high at 88%.  88% of people go home unhappy, left to think that they have less worth.  In this video we can see an important root cause. Click the picture below to watch the full video.

We need to work on bringing this 88% figure down!

The effects of this ripple right through society in many ways, and we tend to blame the individual and react to the symptoms only.  Work for the Dole in Australia IMHO is a reaction to a symptom and not tackling root causes.   Blaming people for being unemployed is the worst way to demean people.  Factors out of their control, for the most part ,causes unemployment.  The current government wants a policy of forcing people to move for work.  This only suits themselves, and their supporters, and only marginally takes into the consideration the needs of the people themselves.

I reviewed L. David Marquet’s book and he tackles this and more and more modern writers like Sinek and Pink are building on the works of Ohno, Deming, Drucker and Ackoff and probably a few others I’m yet to be made aware of or have forgotten.

For me realizing that everyone benefits and not just a few is key to long term success.  Financial success is a useful by product of fostering a great culture and focusing on quality in all aspects of work.  Happy people produce better results.

Video can be viewed by clicking the picture below.

Leadership Crisis - Barry Wehmiller - Happiness


Let’s move from a Me-Centric culture to a We-Centric culture

Managing work with ScrumDo – Part 1

ScrumDo is another online tool for managing work.  It competes in the space of tools like LeanKit, Jira Agile, Kanbanery, SwiftKanban and a host of other tools from other vendors.  The differentiation it appears to me, is that ScrumDo is slanted to a (outright) ScrumBan view of the world, combining aspects of Scrum and Kanban in what could be a much stronger product than some other offerings out there (my experience is only with LeanKit, Jira Agile and TFS/Visual Studio – not a huge amount :)).  You could run a Scrum, Kanban or a ScrumBan – and you can in other tools for that matter, but the features in built in ScrumDo make it appear or feel more targeted to this.

Here in Part 1 of a series of posts I describe the setup of the first iteration of a project I’m currently running.  In a previous post on LeanKit, I noted that I lacked a proper breakdown of tasks for big items on my Personal Kanban that was causing some morale issues – although I did get to end with flying colours, it’s not a way of working I recommend.

Note: I include many screenshots.  I recommend clicking on the image to get a clear view if you so desire.

Cleaning up the Previous Board

I did a board for the previous project but it fell into disuse.  I decided to clean it up.  The standard board presents two horizontal lanes, an Expedite Lane which anyone from a Kanban background will recognize and a lane for the current iteration.  Here’s what I started with and you can see the expedited column is blank.  It’s hardly used and I didn’t want to use it so a later view you will see that I removed it.


I used the Iteration Planning Tool to move items, but you can also use the above view:

Iteration Tool - Movinf Current to Completed

Cleaning up the Board – the Board Editor

I removed the Expedite column in the Board Editor, a view of which is shown here.  Subsequent to this I’ll show later on some other edits that include WIP limits, effectively ScrumBan-ing the board, and adding policies under the columns like Definition of Ready for stories and Definition of Done for development  tasks.

Editing the board - want to remove the Expedite lane for this project

Epics and Stories

The first thing to do was create the Epic and Stories.  I’m following standard scrum backlog grooming practice and I created the Epics and Stories.  As this a project to create course material for an ICAgile accredited course for my company, About Agile, the Epics and Stories followed the layout of the ICAgile learning objectives for the most part.  Easily filled in – not a big Release Planning session required for this project 🙂

There are a number of views for creating Epics and Stories. Here is the Backlog view:

Adding Stories to New Iteration

And here’s from the Epic Planning View:

Epics planned out - feels like 2 to 3 two-week iterations worth of work

Sprint/Iteration Planning

With a Release plan created (though Epics and High Level Stories and no more) it’s time to create the first sprint/iteration.  The first iteration was already created as shown above and is also a way to setup an iteration.  There is also some setup that can be done – interestingly one can set resource availability in hours – I wonder if this fits in with #NoEstimates 🙂 , something for later. The steps correspond roughly to part 1 of sprint planning as you’ll find in the scrum guide.

Iteration Planning - Resource Allocation

Along the way you may find that you need to change things around.  For instance I needed to to convert a story into an Epic (I’m playing multiple roles being the only person on the project – PO and Developer and ScrumMaster):

Converting Story to an Epic

I also had to move a story between Epics.  This can be done in the Edit Story view.  Notice standard Fibonacci Series relative estimation can be changed here (as well as elsewhere):

Move to another epic

And also through a specific view that converts a story to an Epic.  In this example I found I needed further breakdown and hence converted the story to an epic:

Converting Story to an Epic

Sprint Planning Part 2 – Some Task Breakdown

Here I’ll show some view that allow the first few items of the sprint to be broken down.  I don’t break down everything as the July 2013 version of the Scrum Guide guides us to do.  I just setup enough to get going and start producing, also leaving some room for the innovation.  This view shows I’m actually working on the sprint planning tasks:

Planning, cycling between choosing and how to do the work

And this one is showing how desperately hard I’m trying to think of the tasks that may be required for a task.  Inevitably there will be something I missed:

Tasks - trying to think of everything

and as always – I try and use a pomodoro/tomato timer – I sometimes forget that as well.  Here I’m taking the time to take a break during sprint planning, but maybe if your doing this in a group you’d space the pomodoro to longer than 25 minutes:

Taking a Pomodoro Break during Planning

Done some editing of the board whilst I created the Sprint Plan

Here I present some editor views.  As I was creating the plan and learning the features available in ScrumDo I changed things to suit the desired way of working.  Here I removed the Expedite horizontal lane and added WIP limits.  Most columns use points for limits except the Done columns which are using card count to force a pull into the next column of the value stream.  Will see how that pans out.

View of new Board with WIP Limits and removed Expedite Lane

In this view I’m adding a Policy and a WIP limit for the TODO column.  This view is accessible via the board editor:

Adding Policy and WIP Limit for TODO column

So I got to the end of editing the board and sprint planning and the board took more shape with the first 4 tasks, the most important, having been broken down:

Created Tasks for first few days of the sprint

Advisable to have a Sprint Goal

Yes you need a milestone to aim for and I recorded mine as part of the sprint planning task and used the time recording view to keep track of the time I spent.  As far a time spent, I’m not really sure I want to 1. Give a time estimate and 2. Record it.  Fighting off Parkinson’s Law and Student Syndrome is already hard enough.  Time estimates can be taken as targets and both of these dysfunctions can kick in.

Added the Sprint Goal as part of Planning

Tracked time for Planning - but you should save any edit before doing it as I lost my sprint goal comment when I clicked first time

Extras: Policies show up as tool tips

This policy is quite big and not easily view-able.  Not a big issue.

Policy Defined for Doing Column - possible issue with tooltip to fix

This one looks better, not so big:

Definition of Done for the Review Columns

So at the End of the Day

So I did my sprint planning and fixed up the board as shown above in the selection of screenshots.  I made a start on the tasks and found that having the smaller milestones and thinking about tasks drove more satisfying outcomes.  The experience of the previous work, which I’d not done before, was a good input and I have adapted from those experiences.  Having something to aim for what certainly helpful on this first day.

New projects almost always start off a bit haphazardly as all participants find their feet.   This really is dependent on how new the domain is and team forming attributes of a new team The trick to to reflect and adapt, something all too often forgotten or put in the too hard basket.  It’s OK to feel unsure at the beginning, but don’t let this drag on.  Take action to remedy the situation.  It may take several goes at it, but as long as a culture of safety exists, you should be able to take out some very valuable lessons and this is very important to build further from.

Here’s the board at the end of today for this project (BTW: this task, to write this blog, is on my personal board and not this one :))

In subsequently posts I’ll describe new features of ScrumDo as I come across them.  It will interesting to see what metrics and reports I can get out of it.

Status at the end of the first day - will not pull into review until we need to

Note: You can now read Part 2 of the series.