Tag Archives: Teams

If I had my own company…

I guess almost everyone who works for a startup has already had this thought.

I mean, I *have* my own company, but this is just a one-man-show as an Interim Manager and Consultant.

Why do we have thoughts like this? First, because it’s quite easy to stand outside and watch other people doing something. It’s easy to know better as long as you’re not involved.

And second, my guess is that 90% of the people working in startups are more or less entrepreneurs – at least with their heart.

So I continued this mind play this evening and wrote it down. Since I’m kind of a drama queen sometimes, I couldn’t leave it with a simple text. No, I had to create a Manifesto.

Here it is:

> Little Geek Manifesto

Products deserve Love!

If we put all our love, passion and energy into our product, people outside will love our product as well. We want to be energized while creating a product and we want to energize others.

Donʻt confuse Customers with Handbags

You can do whatever you want with your handbag: Smashing it on the floor, filling incredible amounts of useless stuff into it, taking anything you want out, not talking to it. Your handbag wonʻt appreciate this – but will still accompany you anywhere. Customers wonʻt! So we hear our customers. We work closely together and talk with them before we put something in or try to get something out. And, no, we wonʻt smash them on the floor. Promised.

Company == People

People who work for us are part of our company. Success is not imaginable without them. So they are part of our success. In order to make this real, we share 10% of our company with our employees. If we will get some money out of the company, they will as well.

Mind creates Environment – Environment creates Mind

We want to be playful, creative and rich of energy. So our environment reflects this attitude in every single aspect – even with restricted resources we can create a wonderful atmosphere where people love to spend time.

We follow Agile Manifesto Value #1

Indeed, we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. People have hearts and brilliant minds. So theyʻre nicer to talk to than to a process (doesnʻt mean you are forbidden to use a tool, though :-))

No Copycats.

Yes, we did it. But we want to create and build our own stuff. Of course, we are also inspired by already existing ideas. But we donʻt wanna stupidly just copy things. We believe in creativity and evolution, so we always either start with our own ideas and then compare and evolve them influenced by others, or we find something interesting somewhere else, but then we work hard on doing it differently.

Transparency rocks!

No secrets about numbers, processes and products. We neither keep it secret from our employees, nor from the market. We love being transparent, because then we can spend our energy on creating great stuff instead of spending it with hiding information our competitors already know anyway.

Sharing is Happiness, not evil

We use open source technology every day. Our business is based on that. We are inspired by talking to other people and are inspired by other ideas. So we want to give something back to the community by sharing our ideas, experiences and products.

Life is too short to write Quick&Dirty Code

We are playful – but we take the tech business seriously. We did „quick&dirty“ too often in our past lives, and we are sick of it! We are conviced that doing things right will pay off in future. We want to support rock.solid.technology and encourage people to do that.

There is Life after IE6

Yes, we are aware of the fact that there are people outside still surfing the web with IE6. And no, we donʻt support it. We deeply believe in technologies which drive us forward and make our lives better. IE6 is not part of that, sorry. www.getfirefox.com :-)

< Amen!

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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