I'm back from Agile 2015 - and I miss it already!
What a great week!
Agile Day 3
Improv and Agile are like chocolate and peanut butter - they just go together. Jessie founded Improv Effect to help businesses reach their full potential by means of interpersonal-communication skills training. She's an awesome presenter and has a knack to get everyone involved in the improv experience, not stress about doing things on the fly, have fun and learn how to collaborate better.
During the session, we did some improv exercises (many of which I can't wait to use in meetings!) - from dreaming up loser superheros and sidekicks to creating stories with a partner. (My partner was awesome! Diane and I can spin a good yarn!).
Waterfall processes are plan-heavy; plans create other plans. I'm not saying plans are bad - they aren't. A plan or a vision can unify a group of people to reach a goal. The problem I have with plans is that teams can sometimes get caught in infinite what-if scenarios that don't drive anyone in the team closer to making a decision or getting things done (Here's my series about Agile, belly dance and improv).
Improv allows everyone involved to think about what's happening at that moment and contribute a word, an action, something that will keep the story or performance moving forward.
Great improv comes out of being true to yourself, your character, and having the confidence in yourself to make a decision on the spot. I think confidence is what's really needed for an Agile team to succeed - the confidence each team member has in themselves and in the group.
Great talk by Rally team! They had a challenging crowd - we were all amazingly punchy! Kathryn and Skip definitely had their hands full!
They presented a framework for us to leverage when designing our customer interviews for products and processes - what types of answers and responses are necessary to fully define the problem and create a true solution. It's a great method to gain solid insights and help people use tools and processes better.
The focus of the presentation was mainly for coaching purposes, but it could be used for customer product reviews as well (that's what I plan on using it for - can't wait to leverage it on my next project for usability reviews and testing). It's a super useful framework!
There was a talk I wanted to catch, but missed - Can you be remotely agile? (Mike Kilby) - take a peek if you get a chance!
Agile Day 4
I presented that day. I didn't attend a session because I was prepping (i.e., stressing). I think I ran through my talk 2-3 times.
I wanted to catch Virginia Cagwin's talk on Enterprise UX. Here is a link to her talk and her slides. She's awesome - I'm sure it was a great talk.
Agile Day 5
I learned so much in this session about organizations, leadership styles, and ways teams can be self-managed.
During the talk I got distracted reflecting as to why I work better with some teams and not others and why I like Agile. Now that I'm launching Gearmark 2.0, I'm trying to figure out how I want to structure the company and how people collaborate in it. During the course of this talk, I realized that I want it to be a Teal company - not a place where people are contributing by role or hierarchical standing, but where they are adding value. I think everyone has something to contribute to the project, and sometimes what they have to contribute may be a little out of their role, but it may be a great insight others didn't see. I prefer to work on projects where the team members contribute what makes most sense for them, and when there is a need, either a team member steps up to help, or we find someone else outside the team to contribute. It's more about the value people bring to the table.
But I digress.
What I took away from this session is that not all companies are necessarily ready for Agile and the work style related to it - and that's ok. I learned what to look for in companies to see promise and hope for such changes, and when it's time to just walk away. You can't force Agile to work in an environment that isn't open to self-managed teams and open collaboration - a brutal reality, but a reality nevertheless. Great insights to help create change!
We got a lesson about chickens. I didn't know that chickens can be very competitive. The "alpha" chickens (top egg producers) will make the lives of the other collaborative chickens horrible so that they maintain their position. Basically, they play dirty games to win.
If these competitive chickens are removed and the collaborative chickens are grouped together, the collaborative chickens increase their production over 250%. Yep, you read that right.
The competitive chickens will peck themselves bald and kill each other.
So, which type of work environment would you rather work in?
James presented amazing statistics about collaborative companies and how they over performed regarding profits and in the stock market. Our old notions of competitiveness are just wrong - it's far better for the team to collaborate to achieve a goal. Collaboration pays off.
However, with collaboration comes conflict. There are healthy conflicts and ones that make us nosedive into competitive defensiveness.
I know when I get defensive, I become a rabid graduate student, defending my position like a goalie. And if I'm winning, I don't just win gracefully, I'll work to win until the other person almost screams mercy. Doesn't that sound awful? Well, he gave us strategies for how to stop ourselves from our primal defensive instincts like this and be more open to a collaborative environment in trying times (and how to always bring not just yourself, but the team back to that).
There is no reason to make everything a competition when collaboration brings better performance - and just makes us better people.
Now I can't wait for Agile 2016!