Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him”
Killing Moon, Echo and the Bunny Men
The things I remember most vividly from my school years have nothing to do with Maths or English, but are the songs that I loved.
These were the songs that really meant something to me and burnt brightly across my adolescent mind, searing themselves into my consciousness so deeply that many years later a single bar or line from a song, unheard for many years brings to mind all manner of sounds, images and feelings.
Songs are a great way to tell a story …
To learn these songs I would get the album, showing my age here and rather reverently place it on my turn table and then spend the next few days or weeks listening again and again and again to the songs. I would do this until I knew the words and the music so well that all these years later I can can still recall them instantly.
I now know, thanks to Daniel Kahneman of course that what I was doing was embedding this knowledge deep inside my System 1 mode of thought and you know there really is no short cut to the learning process, you have to go at it again and again until you really understand it deep down.
And this I find is the problem in the Lean & Agile consultancy space, so many consultants just don’t really get it, deep down, its all quick wins and quick bucks and it’s something we have to change because we simply are not helping the people we are paid to help, our clients.
So in an attempt to address this here are the links to and the odd thought about the artefacts, books and videos that I have found most useful to me, think of them as the knowledge that has burnt itself into my not so adolescent mind.
This page is where I point people who are looking to learn about what it is I and other coaches do and the hope that they will spend some time not just getting a superficial understanding, but really coming to grips with the content and understanding what goes on deep down inside the theory.
I am a great believer in theory informed practice, rather that superficial practice informed theory.
Whats below is not definitive, not by a long stretch, it is also a constant work in progress so please forgive me if at times it appears a bit half finished, because that’s exactly what it is.
This is where I started my “agile journey” many years ago, well over a decade ago now and so it’s where I will begin here.
There was a time when for me Scrum was Agile and for many people they remain synonymous, especially if you throw some Extreme Programming (XP) practises in there too.
By the way I still think it’s fantastic, although the way it tends to get used is more in a Water-Scrum-Fall context these days as sadly organisations seem to think that just making the development function go quicker is what agile is all about, forgetting all the other bits.
These days I like to think of Scrum as a great place to start the agile journey with immature teams as when done well it introduces a level of discipline and rigour that gives people something tangible to hold onto as they start to learn the basics of agility.
There’s a great video with Chris Matts and Tony Grout on Scaling Agile and in that Tony refers to Scrum as Agile with training wheel and that’s a nice way of putting how I think about Scrum these days.
I tend to find the eventually teams outgrow scrum and move toward a more flow based approach such as Scrumban or perhaps Kanban, which tends to be a more efficient way of working, but having said that if scrum works and it works well for you then why change?
A great place to start is with Mike Cohn and his excellent website Mountain Goat.
There is lots of great information on the site , especially around Scrum and if you are new to Scrum its a real go to place, so start here.
I don’t find Mike to be a tub thumping methodologist, he states that his favourite brand of agile is “unbranded” and teaches that context is everything, you use the right tool for the job.
Mike has a great video on you tube called the Agile and the Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management.
There are a number of good short videos by Collabnet that I use to show to people before using them, in general I like the ceremonies and use them in all kinds of contexts.
Obviously there is the official scrum guide by Ken and Pat, sounds like a 70s kids TV program?
There is also a good free book called “so you want to be a Scrum Master” by NewVoiceMedia.
One last point, these days being a Scrum Master is about understanding more than just Scrum, I tend to take it as another name for an “agile” coach.
The emergence of DevOps was something I became acutely aware of when I was asked to go to a client site and advise on the topic. I already had a “light touch” understanding but suddenly I had a need for some rapid learning.
I’d become aware of Jez Humble and his book Continuous Delivery a couple of year before hand, but to be honest I found it hard going and put the book down after a couple of chapters. However now I attacked it with vigour and had the purpose to persevere this time, I managed to get through it a couple of times, reading or watching something once is a bit pointless as its only on subsequent views that its starts to sinking in, in my experience.
There are a number of videos from Jez on YouTube and these ones I enjoyed and found most useful.
Remember DevOps is not just Continuous Integration or Delivery, its a much wider cultural and philosophical shift its about the breaking down barriers between development and operations, so that instead of people working at crossed purposes they start pulling in the same direction. It about bringing all of this things that tended to happen at he tail end of a project and would literally derail things at the last minute, things such as Security, Volume & Performance Testings and Change Management and bringing these to the beginning, involving all our Ops colleagues right upfront.
Interesting one, what do we mean by lean, these days Kanban seems to have the guiding light for lean software development and David Anderson’s like blue Kanban book is certainly where I started and a good place for anybody to start. It is a touch dry as are David’s video’s at times but there is some great stuff in there.
Some YouTube Videos by David:
The work done by Mike Burrows on Kanban’s Values is excellent, his book Kanban from the Inside is constantly with me these days as is the latest book by David Anderson and Andy Carmichael Essential Kanban Consensed, you can get a free .pdf of this book from LeanKanban.com
Mike Rother is another great person to read or watch, he’s studied the Toyota Production system (TPS), which is where Leand and Kanban comes from and has written up the Toyota way, which is a hard thing to do as it is constantly changing, but that’s kind of the whole point
Some YouTube videos by Mike
Interesting Lean originally came from Dr W. Edwards Deming who used the scientific method to come up with Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA), later changed to Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA), which forms the basis of lean
I like Mary Poppendeik’s take on this, see her web site and the energise workers section, sorry I’m English I can’t put “z”s in words.
Again there are lots of videos out there, here are a couple to get your teeth into, if you like it then find some more.
Mary’s take on the three elements of energising your workforce is very similar to that of Dan Pink, which is personally the way I like to think of motivation and to be honest it’s probably after Cynefin the single most important thing I’ve learnt since I was a teenager.
It’s what I’ve now think of as being the three pillars of motivation, You can have the best tools or techniques in the world but of you don’t have a motivated workforce then you are defeated before you begin.
Autonomy: For me this is simply about giving people the trust and respect to go out and solve things for themselves, without micro managing what they do. It about setting goals and visions and the allowing individuals and teams to go out and find the path themselves.
Mastery: This is not really about becoming a master of something but its more about allowing people to improve their knowledge or skills in something that they care about, this may result in becoming and expert in a particular field or may not but the drive to improve is strong in most people.
Purpose: This is the corner-stone of the three pillars, for sports people purpose is clear its the competitive drive and desire to win, however in the workplace its more intangible that. People need to understand just why the are doing something, why it is important and matters, only by understanding why we need a person to do something by ensuring that they are included in the process and clearly can we hope them to buy in.
For a long time I struggled with just why we did certain things at certain times and why an approach worked and then in another situation the same approach wouldn’t. Why Scrum, why Lean (Kanban), exactly why wasn’t waterfall a good idea, other than we knew we almost always struggled when we used it … just simply why?
It always felt as though there was something missing, a key stone or the glue that held everything together and made sense of it all, and you know I was right and this missing piece in the puzzle was Cynefin.
It all sounds very dramatic and overstated, but I’ll be honest Cynefin makes me feel like the lights have been turned on and for the first time I can see what’s happening around me and understand why.
Cynefin is a framework for making sence of complexity and is without a shadow of doubt the most eye-opening thing I have come across in many years.
I have included a number of blog posts here, following on from a 4 day Cynefin course I did in Amsterdam in May 2016, a course I would highly recommend.
The posts are there really as a reminder for me of the sheer weight of research and thought that goes behind Cynefin.
David Snowden of Cognitive Edge is the chap who has created all of this and there isn’t a book you can read but there is a whole web site, which I link to frequently from my posts.
However a good place to start with is Liz Keogh and her blog post Cynefin for Developers , this really is gold dust, she puts Cynefin in a simpler way, gentler way than Snowden, she has plenty of Cynefin, google is your friend
However I would look at Snowden’s videos as he includes a good overview of what sits behind Cynefin, the academic background on which Cynefin sits, which many other frameworks simply don’t have.
Lean Product Development .
I’ve now spun this out into its own blog
Organisation don’t do value very well I’m afraid, the focus is on outputs and development shops tend to become feature factories where we are judged by the number of widgets we deliver not on the outcomes we deliver for our customers, again Water-Scrum-Fall
I find it amazing that we are trying to move away from scientific management and reductionism, which was ultimately the reason we had to endure Waterfall for so long, but we reembrace Taylorism and Fordism and create the code factories where the developers don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing and when they build the code they never see how it changed their customers lives.
Jeff Patton has some great thoughts on value, expressed as outcomes, Jeff recons we spend too much time thinking about outcomes rather that the outcomes they drive obviously I agree, he shows this using the brilliant diagram.
Jez Humble in his fantastic book Lean Enterprise talks quite a lot about value, or the lack of it, he provides some great stats showing that as of 2012 76% of organisation use no economic or finance model for prioritising what they do. Decisions are mostly based on HiPPO, “Highest Paid Persons Opinion” or Committee decides or even no systematic approach at all, if you prefer then watch the related talk with Gary Gruver which is excellent..
I am not a fan of off the shelf recipes, if you hadn’t guessed, such as SaFE, DAD and to a lesser extend LeSS. However credit where credit is due the SaFE’s approach to delivering value is detailed in Take An Economic View , is something that I really rather like and well worth a look at.
The SaFE stuff actually comes from Cost of Delay, which is the brain child of Don Reinertsen, his book is quite a tough read but worth it if you can get your head around it, alternatively have a look at his talks, which likewise are not entirely easy watching but worth it.
For a gentler introduction of course you could just go to blackswanfarming.com
Lots more to come here I feel
There is so much information written on user stories it’s scary.
I usually point people in the general direction of Mike Cohn and his book User Stories Applied, you can go here for a Chapter 2 excerpt direct from the Mountain Goat web site. There are also many more great resources on there to do with stories so go have a look.
I love Jeff Patton and User Story Mapping, it basically shows a fantastic way of breaking out stories from, well bigger stories, its all boulder according to Jeff, I refer to this book all of the time.
Just a quick note till I write a blog on this but stories are not about writing stuff down, there about getting people talking and building common shared understanding.
I like stories to follow the 3Cs approach for Card, Conversation & Confirmation, which came out of Extreme Programming and was developed by Ron Jefferies.
I’ve now spun this out into its own blog
Agile at Scale
Love this Chris Matts & Tony Grout – Scaling Agile