Archive for the 'Agile' Category



Pivot – kanban token as a thought torn out of the thing

A sticky note on a kanban board is a pivot.

Sticky notes on a kanban board are pivots.

We can be incredibly efficient, but the users of the software we’re creating will only benefit from it if we are effective. Effectiveness is when our customers solve more problems and with higher quality – when they make better business. Implementing received specs is pushing paper. Pro-activeness is to make all aspects of software development to activities to develop our understanding of our client’s needs. Continues delivery is a great tool here and pivots can help us stuff these deliveries with the most effective content.

A pivot is an object used to function as another object in a play situation, like a sticky note with a user need written on it. The sticky functions as the work to write code that meets this need. Planning what to do right now is a play situation. The columns of our kanban board functions as time: future, present and past. (Actually, present seems to be near-future in most kanban implementations – nothing wrong with that.) Moving stickies across the board is a play situation.

Lev Vygotsky taught us that we need a pivot to tear the thought out of the thing. In order to reason about the priorities and the meaning of upcoming tasks, we need objects that represent these tasks. Vygotsky described a child that lets a stick function as a horse: “At that critical moment when a stick – i.e., an object – becomes a pivot for severing the meaning of horse from a real horse, one of the basic psychological structures determining the child’s relationship to reality is radically altered.”

In their book Personal Kanban (Modus Cooperandi Press, 2009), Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Berry elaborates further: “Personal Kanban is an information radiator for your work. With it, you understand the impacts and context of your work in real-time. This is where linear to-do lists fall short. Static and devoid of context, they remind us to do a certain number of tasks, but don’t show us valuable real-time information necessary for effective decision  making.” The pivot is an information radiator. Playing with it develops our idea of the object it represents: our work.

Lego Serieous Play is a is a process designed to enhance innovation and business performance. By using Lego bricks as pivots, teams conduct exploratory workshops on various subjects:

  • Strategy development and exploration: Examine and evaluate relations to external partners and clients.
  • Organizational development: For management, teams and individual employees.
  • Innovation and product development: Unleash creative thinking and transform ideas into concrete concepts.
  • Change management: Facilitate and implement structural changes and mergers.
Lego Serious Play in action. (photo by Ulrika Park)

Lego Serious Play in action. (photo by Ulrika Park)

There are many more examples of pivots used in business. In an ever-changing world, we have to understand new concepts every day. By using pivots in a play situation, we tear the idea out of the object and sharpen our understanding of what the object really is.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

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8 management ideas for 2013

It’s 2013 now — a new year — and you struggle with inspiration. How can I be a modern manager? Here goes eight management ideas you might want to put more focus on:

1. Autonomous Teams
An autonomous team has skills (cross-functional) and are empowered (self-organized) to make its own decisions. The team has clear constraints for its mission and works towards goals based on outcomes and impacts. Everyone must be comfortable with working in an autonomous team.

2. Beyond Budgeting
Swedish bank SHB has been managed for over 30 years without budgets. Norwegian Statoil is another similar example. Annual budgets encourage managers to focus on making the numbers instead of making a difference. The alternative is dynamic and relative targets, holistic reviews, dynamic forecasts, dynamic resource allocation, and being event-driven rather than calendar-driven.

3. Holistic Thinking
Effect on customer’s or the customer’s customer’s business is more important than whether the individual projects hits estimated time, quality and cost. Fewer parallel projects, less formal roles and more decisions just-in-time makes the organization more flexible to adapt to the prevailing reality. When allocation of individuals is limited to 70-80%, there’s even more room for dynamics. Collaboration and shared goals across the project boundaries increases the total effect. Profitability is more important than cost control.

4. Non-financial incentive models
Team-based incentive programs might reduce the individual’s willingness to corrupt the system. And incentives don’t always have to be financial. With creativity and by listening to the employee, we can discover completely different things that are highly valued by our employees. With digital social tools, some of the rewards may come from colleagues as real-time feedback.

5. Knowledge-creating
Innovation-driven product development is more long-lasting than maintenance driven product development. Successful innovation requires that people from all levels of the organization put effort in monitoring the external environment. New combinations of explicit knowledge need to be internalized and shared by all colleagues. To grow employee’s tacit knowledge (talent) rather than build formal processes (structural capital) gives us an outstanding capacity.

6. Real-time Performance
Rather than annual performance reviews, try 15-30 minutes coordination meetings every week or every second week with your employees. Focus on individual development, not individual measurement. Targets are based on outcomes and impact. The manager’s mission is to help employees achieve their goals by removing impediments.

7. Recruit the right people, rather than the right experience
Don’t overvalue experience from your own field, your tools and your processes when recruiting. Other proficiencies have high value, such as personal energy, ability to complete, ability to learn, social skills, and ability to help the team grow. The new employee shouldn’t only look for the best financial solution. It must be her strategic decision, that this is the best environment for me to grow. She values teamwork and aim for t-shaped skills: depth of related skills and expertise in a single field.

8. Transparency and Visualization
To make all employees feel really involved, decisions must be accessible to everyone. The fact that information is stored somewhere isn’t enough. Abstract views of the current state are visualized on walls of wonder, in office areas where most people are. The visualizations are used as decision support while prioritizing.

And finally, here’s a bonus idea: The office as a laboratory where there´s always small experiments under way.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Interview on Time Management and Future Book Projects

Baris: Effectively managing your to-do list is a big part of the Pomodoro Technique. I really like the simplicity of having a super simple list with items grouped as “now”, “today”, “later”. Is the “now list” your invention? Please tell me the thought process behind it.

Staffan: I think it’s my invention, even though many other people most certainly have similar concepts. Even if you decide to focus on just one thing, your thoughts easily starts to wander now and then. Writing the title of your current activity on a slip of paper and putting it next to the keyboard reminds you with in a fraction of a second what it was.

I’m interviewed by Baris Sarer. The full text is here:

  • Part one: http://www.pomodorotime.org/pomodoro-technique-2/staffan-noteborg-interview-on-pomodor-technique-part-i/
  • Part two: http://www.pomodorotime.org/pomodoro-technique-2/staffan-noteborg-interview-on-pomodoro-technique-part-ii/
  • To translate idioms

    Currently, I’m translating Jonathan Rasmusson’s excellent book The Agile Samurai into Swedish on behalf of the Swedish publisher Studentlitteratur. The language is informal and simple. There are very few words that I have to look up in a dictionary. A more significant challenge is the idioms.

    An idiom is an expression that has a figurative meaning in common use. This meaning differs from the literal meaning. It is not a proverb or an aphorism.

    There are at least 25 000 idioms in American English. How can you, as a translator, understand unfamiliar idioms? With the right keywords, you can get help from Google.

    JR writes “this is your chance to lay it on the line”. I realize that this is not about to put something on a line or to add it in a queue. But I have no idea what it really means. So, I searched Google for idiom+lay+line – like this:

    The first page found explains: ”lay it on the line (informal) to tell someone the truth although it will upset them. ’You’re just going to have to lay it on the line and tell her her work’s not good enough.’”

    So it’s about being honest. It’s quite a difference between these two:

    1. This is your chance to put it on the line (or add it in the queue)
    2. This is your chance to be honest.

    The question arises: what is the corresponding idiom in Swedish, i.e. the target language? To translate literally word by word is obviously not an option. It would be incomprehensible to Swedish readers. But there are Swedish idioms such as “var rakryggad” (keep your back straight) which roughly means the same thing.

    However, just because the author used an idiom in the original text, it need not be an idiom in the translation. Many times, the best way is to descend the translators own personal literary ambitions and simply translate to a straight explanation: “This is your chance to be honest”.

    Samurai and Rock Star

    To be invited to speak at conferences around the world has many advantages. One is that you meet other authors. Ed Burns and Jonathan Rasmusson are two of them.

    I Agile Smuraimet Jonathan Rasmusson in Chicago last summer at Agile2009. He was then struggling with his upcoming book. I asked curiously when he expected the book to be released. Hopefully within a few months, he answered. A few months happened to be almost a year, but now it’s released. The title is “The Agile Samurai — How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software” which describes exactly what it is. There are many Agile books out there, but this one is different. Firstly, even though it’s published by Pragmatic Bookshelf it has a style similar to O’Reilly’s Head First series . Pictures and text are mixed in a way that make learning easy. Secondly, this is more of an in-his-own-words book than the usual Agile book. The book describes Agile ideas instead of defining the Scrum terminology. If you’re interested in Agile, on whatever level, you should read this book.

    Last Rock Star Programmersmonth I met Ed Burns in Poland at the GeeCON2010 Java conference. He recently released a new version of his JSF book. But, what caught my attention was another book from 2008. During one of his sessions at GeeCON he replayed interviews with people like Rod Johnson, James Gosling and Andy Hunt. Those interviews were originally recorded for the book “Riding the Crest — Secrets of the Rockstar Programmers.” It’s a book were thought leaders from our own industry shares what they think about entrepreneurs, what makes them productive and how their career affected their private life? The answers go in all directions.

    Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

    Do you ALWAYS respect the timebox?

    Timbox and Flow

    Timbox and Flow

    Hi Staffan! Do you ALWAYS respect the 25 minute timebox when you’re in the zone? Can’t this break your flow?

    Yes, I always respect the timebox:

    • A short break won’t make me forget everything. I can go on from exactly the point where I left.
    • The break means that I can recharge my brain. Goal free play encourages background processing and right brain thinking. If I put enough effort in last iteration, it will even be guilt free play, which helps me avoid procrastination.
    • Humans love rhythm. From the day we were born to the day we die, our life is filled with rhythms. They make us feel safe and helps us to have sustainable pace.
    • Flow means totally focused on one task. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m doing the most important task. Sometimes flow means efficiency, without effectiveness. To recurrently take a short break and then asses if I’m doing the most important thing will help me navigate in task land.
    • When I’m in the flow, I’m so focused so I’m not really aware that I’m in the flow. When the timebox is finished, it’s impossible to immediately say if I should continue or not.
    • To take a break when arousal is high, makes me eager when it’s time to start the next timebox.

    Daily Scrum fine considered harmful

    Many Scrum teams implement a system of fines for those who come late to the Daily Scrum meeting. The Scrum Master collects a dollar — or whatever — to increase the discipline. In the long run it will actually have the opposite impact.

    When extrinsic motivation (be in time to avoid fine) goes up, then the intrinsic motivation (be in time because you value this meeting) usually goes down. You can make people temporarily change their behavior because they are threatened, but you can’t use a threat to make them change what they value.

    This is a well known fact in brain science.