Tag Archives: Agile Leadership

Scrum Day(s) Düsseldorf

I will be speaking on Agile Leadership at Scrum Day Düsseldorf.

The event will be on Wednesday, Dec 2 at Novotel Neuss (near Düsseldorf).

The day before, Dec 1, there will be some interesting workshops. At least one of them is a highlight I want to recommend to you: Joseph Pelrine’s workshop on self organizing teams. I had a foretaste of what might come up there at “Agile2009” in Chicago. But his workshop in Chicago was one of 3 hrs. This one is a full day workshop.

Furthermore, he will also be the keynote speaker on Wednesday.

For more information, see Scrum Day Website.

I’ll publish my slides online afterwards.

XP Days Germany, Day 2 (part1)

Day two is over and I’m lying in my bed, happy but tired, and try to keep my eyes open until I’ll have clicked the “publish” button in ScribeFire.

First things first: Some people said to me that they had read my blog posting on day one. What nearly everybody told me was that they’d had the discussion about either German or English talks in the past. And that they’d had more English talks some years ago. And that it is a strange scenario if Germans talk to an audience of just German people but speak English (and some listeners have difficulties to understand it). Ok, I have to admit: In this case German may be the better option :).
Just to make it clear: I respect this decision, result of experiences in the past. I’m sure that this is pretty well thought-out. And I didn’t want to blame people who had made this decision. It was less about criticizing something or someone but more a public reflection on my own personal feelings and thoughts. Personally, I really love getting in touch with an international community and I’d really appreciate it if this also would happen in Germany. Nonetheless, even more than that I appreciate a well-organized conference with happy people on it – and that’s what XP Days Germany seem to be.

Anything else? Oh, yes, there were some sessions today – two dozens in four parallel tracks, to be precise. I attended “Creating Leaderful Teams to Achieve High Performance” by Deborah Hartmann Preuss. It was a great talk on changing mental role models – as a member of a team, but even more important: as a manager. Because that’s the topic I’ve been obsessed with for nearly one year, it was very valuable for me to hear from her insights, compare, adapt and question her points. To be honest: There is just one I question (and I needed some hours to think about it): I’m not very happy with the term “egoless team”. I know, many trainers make use of it. Maybe I’m too sceptic because of my personal spiritual background. Every time someone starts talking about “egolessness”, I become very carefully: In most cases this is the beginning of deliberation, of suppressing individualism. It doesn’t have to be used this way in Agile, but I know that talking about “egoless …” can be a mighty weapon.
Back to the point I agree with: The key thing is that the term “Agile Manager” is an oxymoron. But what is needed instead is an “Agile Leader”.
A leader as a
– Meaning Maker
– Catalyst for Growth
– Model of Integrity
– Cultural Change Agent
– Facilitator
Deborah Hartmann Preuss explained in detail how she understands each of these roles.
I could mention many details of this talk, but I’ll pick out just two more points: The meaning of retrospectives. “If you wanna do just one agile practise, choose retrospectives.”, she said. Why? Because this is the most important opportunity to step back and reflect as a team. To remind Albert Einstein: A problem cannot be solved on the same level where it has been caused. Stepping back means changing the perspective, the level. Same thing for leaders. Integrating a retrospective in the working routine of the team extends work from single loop to double loop. Single loop work means working on efficiency (doing things right). Double loop work means working on effectivity (doing the right things), because you reflect on your work and learn more. But a decision for effectivity on costs of efficiency has to be made as a top level management decision. Once again, an act which needs a step back and some reflection.

Furthermore, I had other very good talks today: “TDD with iPhone OS” by Tammo Freese and “Science Scrum: Agile Project Management in Science” by Michael Podvinec and Joseph Pelrine.
In addition to that, a very entertaining final of “TDD with the Stars” and Alistair Cockburn’s Keynote on Hard-Agile (subtitled with “Agile is for wimps!”…).

I hope I’ll find some time tomorrow to write more about these sessions. Now it’s time to close my eyes (and hopefully not to dream of Agile Jeopardy: “Was sind Haftnotizen?”)

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Agile Literature: Leadership Agility

If you’re interested in Agile and any resulting challenges for managers and team leaders, I strongly recommend to you “Leadership Agility”, by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs.
It’s a very interesting book about a subject which brings my professional background and some of my private interests (field correlation, collective consciousness, Ken Wilber, transpersonal psychology, etc.) together.
A detailed review is to follow!

More information:

Buy online:

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Joseph Pelrine: Self-organizing teams and Turning up the heat

Of of the most impressive sessions I had at the Agile2009 convention was Coaching self-organizing teams by Joseph Pelrine. He is a very good Agile coach with a great reputation and one of Europe’s leading experts on eXtreme Programming and Scrum, so it was a pleasure for me to join in.

During this three-and-a-half-hour tutorial (by the way: He started with Swiss chocolate for everyone – so he got us all after just 30 seconds! Simple but powerful tool… ;-)) he talked about different types of people and their different beliefs and how they influence the whole team. He showed the functioning of a team, comparing it with a swarm of birds. We had a wonderful exercise when Joseph Pelrine opened the doors of the room, and led us, “flying” as a swarm, through the hallway of the hotel. This small exercise – as well as the other ones – demonstrated to us in a very playful and natural manner the meaning of self-organization.

This is something I’ve always liked very much: Learning not only through intellectual knowledge, but also through direct experience. Even though it was an agile Conference, there were some other speakers who were not themselves very agile….

An important part of the session was dedicated to the question of how to handle teams and what would be necessary to make them self-organizing and working well. As Joseph Pelrine wrote in his abstract:
“Allowing a team to self-organize along the lines of ‘oh well, they’re all adults, they’ll figure it out’ is just as irresponsible as reverting to the command-and control school of management.” Full Ack from my side (if my humble opinion makes any difference in that case :O))!
So, he pointed out that it is always a matter of fine-tuning the dose. The image Joseph used came from cooking: If you want to cook well (=make a team working well) you have to put heat (=energy, change, etc.) into them. If you don’t, your meal (team) gets cold and solid (no evolution, no results, no enthusiasm). But if you put too much heat into it, you will burn (overstress, burn-out) it.

My opinion again: That’s an interesting insight which some managers and coaches don’t realize. Scrum and XP don’t mean “put as much change and pressure as possible onto your team”. It is always a question of the right dose, isn’t it? If you change too many things in a short period or if you want too much, you’ll burn them, guys!
It’s also interesting that, assuming the cooking theory is right, you need continuous change / energy from from outside. I wonder how this would apply to “doing agile” vs. “being agile” – but that’s another story (for a further blog article).

There was a surprising moment for me when we started representing the states of cooking when we, the participants, took up positions on a linear diagram outlined on the floor: We were representatives of different states of cooking on the scale, from “solid” to “burned”. I try to make it clear by a scribble:

cooking á la Pelrine

cooking á la Pelrine

When we talked with others representing different states (e.g. “solid” and “burned”), I felt that it should be a circle, not a linear scale, because those from the “solid” state had similiar experiences as the people from the “burned” group. Despite the teams they represented being in completely different situations, the results of “burning” and “solid” seemed to be very alike (I earned another Swiss chocolate for this observation…).

I think this model is really good, because it’s simple, a good analogy and also matches my personal experiences.

If you are interested in learning more about the heat model, please have a look at Joseph Pelrine’s blog.

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