Many decades ago, my small-world assumptions were incredibly optimistic: I was smart, resourceful and helpful, and the world needed me, therefore capitalists would seek me out and pay me well. I discovered they weren’t looking very hard for me: I had to find them. I longed for experts in my own social group—i.e., gay software entrepreneurs—who could advise me, and found few. I even wrote to venture capitalist colleagues asking if they knew any gay VCs: nope. I remember thinking I couldn’t talk football and I didn’t play golf, therefore I would find few commonalities with straight men. Though I now realize how prejudicial this assumption was, it turns out the main victim was likely me.
New cognitive psychology results can help us provide better training. Trainers seek to transform the way you think about tasks, motivation, planning and outcomes, and equip you with enough understanding to succeed. My Scrum Trainings are done in the afternoon, reinforcing learning by exploiting sleep cycles. Further ideas include changing venues from day-to-day, varying ways of applying agile thinking to problems, etc.
As Director of the Agile Program Office at Citrix Online, I trained people in agile thinking, including XP, Scrum, Lean and enterprise-level productivity improvement. I’m keenly interested in approaches that enhance learning, especially in Scrum Training. Agile methods are difficult for many to fully embrace, and I want to do anything I can to help.
Concerned citizens might warn you not to stand to close: I rope nearby bystanders into the crime I’m currently committing. So when Scott Downey, the General Patton of Hyperproductive Scrum, told me he was busy crawling wineries near my Santa Barbara office, I suggested getting together. “How about 11:30am for lunch?” I asked. “Perfect,” he said, “See you then.”
Scott arrived, we had a hearty repast, and after agreeing the world needed our genius, I had to get ready to to teach the second afternoon of Scrum Training at Citrix Online. Did he want to come? “Sure,” he said. As we walked into the conference room, I asked if he might like to present some of my slides? “Why not?” he said. When we started looking at them, Scott felt uncomfortable. Could he use his own slides?
A “Cult of Zero” is developing worldwide. Adherents drive the total emails in their inbox to zero, every day, with great results in improved productivity. I talk about how you can get your inbox to zero, and keep it there.
Unbelievers wonder why cultists obsess about their inboxes. Take a look at the church roster, and you might find a hint. Some are well-regarded executives, who somehow find time for impromptu meetings or a mid-day tennis game. Some are up-and-comers, picking their battles. Some are just calm folks doing a great job, unperturbed by late-breaking drama.
Agile 2010 was held in Orlando near the Disney Epcot resort August 9 to 13. I focus on agile enterprises and attended many enterprise-focused talks. If you are interested in the developer focused view, Martin Fowler provides his thoughts here. My impressions follow.
Portfolio management is being implemented in conjunction with quarterly “sprints” in other places beside Citrix Online, including Motley Fool (Max Keeler), Tektronix Communications (Brian Miller) and Progressive Medical (Ben Blanquera). The four of us are starting to share ideas and experiences.
I presented our work on Enterprise Scrum at Agile 2010 this year. The session was well-attended for a specialized talk like this one (really only suitable for software engineering teams larger than 30 people), with about 40 people in the audience.
Enterprise Scrum: Creating an Agile Company
Enterprise Scrum, a fractal extension of Scrum and XP, has organized all development at Citrix Online since Jan 2009. We estimate team months, run quarterly Sprints, reassign teams, meet in weekly stand-ups. We start or postpone whole projects that use Scrum or Scrum-of-Scrums. No other known companies yet use Enterprise Scrum. It provides extreme visibility and control for CXOs. It promotes agile thinking enterprise-wide, driving adoption outside engineering. It demands NPV justification and forces executives to prioritize decisions transparently. It makes us more profitable.
I’ve helped shape the configuration of software engineering facilities lately, and reviewed literature around this area seeking to maximize productivity. You may be interested in my findings.
One of the most influential papers in agile development discusses an experiment using six 8-person software teams in an automobile company [Teasley 2002]. They compared cubicle-based teams (each engineer had a cubicle) with warroom-based teams (a single room with 6-8 engineers and no separating walls). The outcome was dramatic.
Summary: Success arises when we transform significantly, not just do marginally better. We must give ourselves and our teams mandates, time and incentives to ponder and execute such transformations.
Last month, MIT professor and economist Esther Duflo won the prestigious John Bates Clark award, for the person under 40 who contributed most to economics. There is an inspiring profile of her in The New Yorker (May 17, 2010). Dr Duflo performs economic experiments in developing countries, exploring important problems statistically (for example, that quotas requiring proportional representation for women in elections do, in fact, reduce societal bias). Such experiments give us clearer direction for future action.
If you created New Year’s resolutions, in hungover remorse for your 2009 debauchery, it’s a good time to assess your rehabilitation. By examining last quarter’s progress, you can make early course corrections and get on track for a successful 2010.
Take a tip from the productivity experts and host your own personal retrospective. Here’s how:
- Pull out your resolutions and review. (Or at least try to remember what they were.)
- Try to reconstruct the hopes and frustrations you felt three months ago.
- Write this down: Revel in what went well in your quest for improvement.
- Regret what went badly.
- Reengage by picking one or two things you will do differently in Q2.
A colleague of mine, Kris Niles, sent me this long (59 minute), but compelling audio from “This American Life”, on the demise of the Fremont NUMMI auto plant. The GM Fremont plant was shutdown in 1982, restarted as GM/Toyota NUMMI in 1984, adopted the agile “Toyota Production System” through a massive education program (they flew all NUMMI plant personnel to Japan, where Toyota trained them), and almost immediately started producing high quality cars.