My bar for reviewing and recommending any book is brutally high.  I judge non-fiction books based on whether I can apply the ideas and concepts in real-life situations I face in my practice.  While I read a large number of books, very few make it to the blog or podcast (I do have a list though). Tame Your Work Flow hurdles the bar I have set up.  The book is very useful. What do I mean by useful? In this case, just this week I have used ideas from my notes I took while reading the book to help craft experiments to improve the flow of work for a client.  Two of the multiple powerful takeaways I have absorbed from Tame You Work Flow are: (more…)

Guest Blogger Lights Up Business Agility

Guest Post: Business Software System Efficiencies
by Diane Davidson

Industry experts are predicting that merger and acquisition (M&A) activities will continue to be the option for companies looking to scale their operations, enter new markets, or keep pace with technology-savvy startups. A by-product of M&A actions is stranded assets both at the parent company and the remaining company. These stranded assets are the business systems and technology landscape that was left behind during the divestiture process. The epicenter of those systems is the company’s financials and related data. Duplicate business systems and complex technology landscapes lead to higher IT costs and maintenance. (more…)

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The SPaMCAST 586 features our interview with Jeff Dalton. We talked about his book Great Big Agile and the Agile Performance Holarchy. One of the topics we explored in this podcast is the relationship between being a professional musician and a software developer. Jeff brings his wisdom and humor to the podcast again to help listeners learn from high-performance agile organizations!

Note: At 23:50 ish in this Podcast Jeff and I begin an exchange on the difference between the attributes needed to be an agile leader and those needed to climb the corporate ladder. The discussion is a profound truth that rarely is discussed or is suppressed. I would like to hear your thoughts! (more…)

Today we begin the re-read of Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition.  I am using the paperback version of the book (19th printing of the second edition) with its 248 pages long (18 pages of front matter).  This edition has two forewords, both by Stephen R Covey, a preface, acknowledgments, endnotes, an index, and most importantly 11 chapters.  My estimate for the completion of the read is 14 weeks (I assume I will miss a week due to family obligations). I have never read this book, so this will be a journey of discovery for me and perhaps some of you. The book was originally recommended to me last summer during a luncheon with Nancy Kastl and was validated in the poll for the next re-read.  (more…)

Sometimes art is a metaphor and sometimes it is something else.


Clean Language’s pedigree is from psychotherapy and has found a home in coaching. It is also a valuable tool for discovering valuable information about work products. As product managers, product owners, and stakeholders interact with the world and then describe a set of wants and needs they use metaphors. Metaphors are communication shortcuts that need to be explored. For example, product visions are often metaphor magnets. Most vision statements are considered internal and proprietary, therefore, they are hard to find (NDAs keep me from sharing the ones from companies I work with. Apple’s vision statement, according to Mission Statement Academy, is “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.” If that statement was an input for building a product backlog there are several metaphors that would need to be explored so they can be converted into features and user stories. Clean Language is a way to get people to realize and describe what they know, what they think, how they feel while reducing bias in the results. Using clean language to identify and record requirements and needs follows the standard format for asking clean language questions with a few twists. (more…)

What happens next?

Clean Language is a  tool to explore the metaphors used during discussions and conversations.  The term metaphor is being used in a broad sense to include similes and other subcategories.  Clean Language was originally developed by David Grove, a psychotherapist, in his practice working with trauma survivors. While many of us have been involved with death march projects over the years, a psychotherapy technique feels like overkill, especially since it takes a lot of effort to learn Clean Language Questions. However, the payback is worth the effort. I recently was sitting in the airport listening to a conversation between two colleagues. In a five-minute slice of the discussion, I counted 42 separate metaphors. Perhaps all the metaphors were understood, or perhaps they were participating in mutual mystification. A few well-placed Clean Language Questions would have been useful to ensure the conversation was synchronized. There are several categorizations of clean questions.  For example ‘Metaphors in Mind’ by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins group questions into nine categories. Other schemes range from four to nine.  The number of categories is less important than the idea that different questions will elicit different responses. Clean Language Questions seek to get the person answering the questions to recognize: (more…)

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The SPaMCAST 585 features an intimate conversation between Jon M Quigley, Susan Parente, and myself. We discussed experimentation, learning, and a deep dive into whether agile transformations do enough to prepare technical teams to get the maximum value from agile. 

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