Distance Running


Superman probably does not need a stand-up meeting but Clark Kent is another story!

Superman probably does not need a stand-up meeting but Clark Kent is another story!

The daily stand-up meeting has become a nearly ubiquitous feature of Agile projects and also can be found in Kanban (lean), support projects and even in some waterfall projects.  Proliferation of the stand-up meeting shouldn’t be surprising – the meeting is simple, typically short and easy(ish) to implement.  However, there are a few circumstances where daily stand-up meetings, as we defined them, should not be used.  These circumstances revolve around two general areas, team size (too small and too big) and team/organizational culture.

The guidelines generally quoted for the size of Scrum teams is 7 members plus or minus 2 (5 to 9 people).  This is because of the number of possible combinations of communication channels between team members.  Smaller project teams don’t have all of the skills needed to bring a typical corporate IT project to fruition.  However smaller team can and do exist.  My general recommendation is that stand-up meetings make sense for any team that has more than one team member. A single person doing a stand-up by himself using the classic format is just strange; they should do daily planning.  The same argument could be made for a team of two that does pair development, however taking a few minutes to review what is done and plan the day is the essence of a stand-up meeting.  Larger Scrum teams have just as gray a limit as small teams, however we can all agree that as team size grows, it takes substantially more effort for everyone to stay connected. As team size grows, sub-teams form around specific functions or technical specialties. In other words, the team naturally breaks into smaller teams that communicate more freely.  As teams get bigger than 10 members I find that stand-up meetings begin taking longer (30 minutes instead of 15), generally have to chaired by the Scrum master or an authority figure and become status meetings rather than planning meetings.  I have even seen pseudo stand-up meetings with published agendas. These types of meeting may be occasionally necessary, but I can state categorically that they are not stand-up meetings.

The extremes project-team size aside, the other major reason for not doing stand-up meetings is an environment that does not support the concept of self-organization and self-managing teams. Stand-up meetings, by design, are planning meetings in which team members communicate plans to their peers, solicit and provide support for each other and identify roadblocks to further progress.  The stand-up meeting won’t work in organizations or teams where that type of behavior is not considered appropriate or where managers must gather statuses and dispense work.  Other types of daily tasking or status meetings might be appropriate, but those meetings even if every stands up are NOT stand-up meetings in the Agile sense.  Agile stand-up meetings provide just-in-time planning for teams, and just as importantly empower the team to solve the business problems as a team. Without the planning component, they are merely status meetings.

There are very few good reasons not to leverage daily stand-up meetings.  The extremes of team size, large or small, makes the logistics of a stand-up difficult. Single person projects probably don’t need stand-up meetings; instead I find that reflecting on what I accomplished the day before and what I am going to do today when I run highly effective.  Teams that are too large, probably need to be broken up into smaller teams that can more effectively communicate.  Organizations that don’t embrace the 12 Agile principles ought to put off using stand-up meetings and consider changing their culture first.  But that is a topic for another day.

Ten miles, boom!

Ten miles, boom!

Motivational Sunday

Approximately fourteen years ago I decided to take up jogging as a means of moderating the weight gain that life as a traveling consultant can bring.  At some point the “exercise” that jogging represented became something else. It became the quiet time to reflect on the day ahead. It became a pleasure. At some point in the history of my running I began to run 10k events (some people call them races, however my speed betrays me).  Running with thousands of people and the surrounding events are some of the high points of my year.

Fourteen years ago I could only run the distance between two telephone poles. The difference between now and then?  It boils down to motivation and training. I believe that, with hard work, anything is possible. I will never win a 10k if I compare myself to the best runners, but I can compete against myself and continually seek to better my own expectations.

Earlier this year I decided to run a ½ marathon in 2014 (I can’t see the insanity escalating to a full marathon).  Saturday, after one aborted attempt and recovering from a minor injury, I ran ten miles (10.01 to be exact). Ten miles is a lot of telephone poles and in a few weeks I will add a few more telephone poles to the total to run a practice ½ marathon. I won’t set any land-speed records, but with motivation and a lot of training I will continue to prove to myself that my boundaries are only self-imposed.

In for a little, in for a lot.

PS. Look out for the pothole on Leer Road in Avon Lake!

Marine Corp Marathon 10k and Process Improvement,
One Year Later . . .

Thomas M. Cagley Jr

The Runners!

On Sunday, October 28 I ran in my second Marine Corp Marathon 10K. I ran with two friends and my daughter (see pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tcagley). The experience for the second year in a row taught me a number of lessons.

The first lesson is that drinking out of a cup while running regardless of your speed is darn near possible if you don’t want to pour PowerAde (think sticky when it dries) all of your face and chest. I am very happy I thought ahead and ran with a squirt bottle full of sports drink. The lesson that the little bit of preparation taught me was (other than the obvious of keeping sticky stuff from my face and chest) is that small amounts of preparation early can go a long way in the end and that you need to think broadly about preparation. In process improvement it is easy to fall into the trap training people of perform a specific task however it is as important to make sure you have planned the logistical support needed to stay in the game until the task is complete. The short story is plan early (and re-plan often but that is another story), preparation includes making sure you have both the skills and the materials required for the job.

The second major revelation (perhaps I’ve led to a sheltered life) is that shared experiences are a powerful tool to create teams and to facilitate organizational change. These experiences are easy to recognize after they occur but more difficult to create. The group that ran the 10k did not run as a cohesive team, did not run “together” but yet we shared a common goal, that of finishing. In addition to the common goal of finishing each person also had one or more personal goals. My personal goal was simply to do better than I did last year. The day ended with each of us the sharing experiences, sights and sounds which reinforced the shared experience. The whole package consisting of common goals, personal goals and sharing led to a commitment to run again next year. Applying this lesson to organizational change would make the run worth the price of admission even if it wasn’t fun.

In order to leverage shared experiences to support organizational or process change activities we need to recognize:

  1. All participants must share at least one important common goal.
  2. Each participant will have their own reasons for participating.
  3. There needs to be trust between the participants and room to share experiences.

Typically the common goal tends to be a stated in cold analytical business terms. Examples might include, “achieve SEI CMMI Maturity Level 5”, “improve productivity” or “increase market share”. The goal acts as an anchor or as a tool to help rally the troops.

Critical Tip: The common goal must be more than just a slogan; it must be something the group is committed to achieving and by achieving the goal making a difference to the organization.

Each person is participating will have their own reasons for participating, these are goals in their own right, but held at individual level. These typically will sound less altruistic and less lofty. Examples might include, “my boss told me to”, “its part of my objectives”, “this is a chance to get noticed or becoming famous”. Regardless of the rational each of these individual goals holds a great deal of power. These goals are the link from the common goal to personal motivation.

Critical Tip: Recognize and embrace individual goals. Make it your job to learn why people are participating and use this knowledge to enhance and motivate the team.

Finally sharing experiences reinforces the team by building a mythology. Building a set of legends or mythology can cement a group together. The stories initially identify group values and reinforce the social norms then provide a feedback loop to reinforce group identity and values. While inter-group trust is critical to sharing stories and experiences; the act of sharing experiences builds trust (a catch 22?). I would suggest having real shared experience is necessary and that trying to construct or make up shared experiences (e.g. spin) will less effective (creating a legend for the group might work in spy novels but in real life the actions speak louder than words).

Critical tip: Emotional, psychological and behavioral investment links the group. Experiences that generate this linkage can be in-person or virtual using Web 2.0 tools like Second Life. The goal is socialization.

Shared experiences are a powerful tool that can weld teams into a unit. To a lesser extent shared experiences can weld whole organizations into a cohesive unit (e.g. Pearl Harbor or 9/11). Using experiences as a motivator to create teams it is not as easy as it seems. People know whether they are being manipulated therefore I would suggest being honest and using natural events when possible. Team building exercises and real-life case studies are great tools to include in your implementation plans. Role playing can be particularly powerful.

Remember for effective software process improvement, clearly define common goals, allow participants to have their own goals, leverage shared experiences and make sure the logistics are in place to complete your task. Finally don’t spill Powerade all over yourself if at all possible!

Contact the editor!

I am updating this post with the second part of the essay (still in-progress) for this weeks SPaMCAST. Thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Next chunk sooooon! Pictures when done!

Marine Corp Marathon 10k and Process Improvement,
One Year Later . . .

Thomas M. Cagley Jr

On Sunday, October 28 I ran in my second Marine Corp Marathon 10K. I ran with two friends and my daughter (see pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tcagley). The experience for the second year in a row taught me a number of lessons.

The first lesson is that drinking out of a cup while running regardless of your speed is darn near possible if you don’t want to pour PowerAde (think sticky when it dries) all of your face and chest. I am very happy I thought ahead and ran with a squirt bottle full of sports drink. The lesson that the little bit of preparation taught me was (other than the obvious of keeping sticky stuff from my face and chest) is that small amounts of preparation early can go a long way in the end and that you need to think broadly about preparation. In process improvement it is easy to fall into the trap training people of perform a specific task however it is as important to make sure you have planned the logistical support needed to stay in the game until the task is complete. The short story is plan early (and re-plan often but that is another story), preparation includes making sure you have both the skills and the materials required for the job.

The second major revelation (perhaps I’ve led to a sheltered life) is that shared experiences are a powerful tool to create teams and to facilitate organizational change.  These experiences are easy to recognize after they occur but more difficult to create.  The group that ran the 10k did not run as a cohesive team, did not run “together” but yet we shared a common goal, that of finishing.  In addition to the common goal of finishing each person also had one or more personal goals.  My personal goal was simply to do better than I did last year.  The day ended with each of us the sharing experiences, sights and sounds which reinforced the shared experience.  The whole package consisting of common goals, personal goals and sharing led to a commitment to run again next year.  Applying this lesson to organizational change would make the run worth the price of admission even if it wasn’t fun.

In order to leverage shared experiences to support organizational or process change activities we need to recognize that experiences must:

1. All participants must share at least one important common goal.

2. Each participant will have their own reasons for participating.

3. There needs to be trust between the participants and room to share experiences.

Typically the common goal tends to be a stated in cold analytical business terms.  Examples might include, “achieve SEI CMMI Maturity Level 5”, “improve productivity” or “increase market share”.  The goal acts as an anchor or as a tool to help rally the troops.

Critical Tip: The common goal must be more than just a slogan; it must be something the group is committed to achieving and by achieving the goal making a difference to the organization.

The reason each person is participating in a project are goals in their own right but held at individual level.  These typically will sound less altruistic and less lofty.  Examples might include, “my boss told me to”, “its part of my objectives”, “this is a chance to get noticed or becoming famous”.  Regardless of the rational each of these individual goals holds a great deal of power.   These goals are the link from the common goal to personal motivation.

Critical Tip: Recognize and embrace individual goals.  Make it your job to learn why people are participating and use this knowledge to enhance and motivate the team.

I have been running for approximately six years. I started by running telephone poles; tun one, walk one. I graduated to running hours and hours. So far this year I have run in excess of 200 hours. My longest run of the year being in the neighborhood of 1:42 minutes. On Sunday I ran the Marine Corp 10k and was humbled. The differences between my quite morning jog and a ‘race’ were staggering, literally. The differences began ranged from having to navigate the starting scrum, to proper eating, pace and biological functions while hanging out with 40,000 of your newest friends. On a personnel basis I now know what it will take and will adjust my personal training program for next time. Bottom line was about 1:06:52 for a 10K (including a few walks). The goal for the next time is 10 minute miles without walking (I do this darn near every morning) and without nearly passing out afterward.

Whether running on the street, a software project or a process improvement project there are lessons to be learned from this event. The first is that circumstances make a big difference. Know your pace and know what might effect it, pressure to go faster or slower than the capability of you (or your team) can be disastrous. Always do your homework on the enivrionment, you need to know what to expect for planning. Where are you starting from, who might get in the way, and where the water stops will be. Talk to with anyone that has experience (this is even truer if there area you do not have experience with). Experiment where possible to expand your knowledge base. Finally a good night sleep and a proper diet leading up to any major event is a really good idea (hey, one of those pieces of advice you got from your mother that was right).

I will edit the before and after pictures later in the week, in the interim please check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/tcagley/

I spent the day getting registered for my first race.  It will be the Marine Corp. 10K.  The weather was threatening but the rain did not come and I spent the time watching cartoons on my IPOD.  Refrederator is awesome.  Speaking of awesome the line to pick up race packages was huge.

photo_102806_002.jpg

We will continue with GNGB later in the week after I geek out on my run.  The goal is 1 hour (I am slow).

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