Re-read Saturday


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We began the Re-Read Saturday feature in 2014 with a re-read of John Kotter’s classic Leading Change. The list of books we have re-read is quite long — I am going to have to create a list. All that said, last week a person that regularly comments on the podcast indicated they really did not know what Re-Read Saturday was all about. So today to commemorate spring in the northern hemisphere (and the fact that it snowed) and the kick-off of the latest re-read (Why Limit WIP by Jim Benson) I am going to share an audio version of this week’s entry.  As we always say, buy a copy of the book and read Jim Benson’s Why Limit WiP (buy a copy using our Amazon Affiliate link  https://amzn.to/3u6Feml get reading) along with us.

The written version:  https://bit.ly/3iDezbp 

This week we also have a visit from Jeremy Berriault, who brings his QA Corner to the podcast.  Jeremy and I explored the difference between relative and absolute time. 

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Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning In Work by Jim Benson is our current re-read. Over the last few years, I have found copies of this book in offices that surprise me (in a good way). It suggests that leaders and thought leaders are beginning to understand that you can’t do more than you can do. Now it is a matter of shifting that knowledge into action.

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Today we complete our re-read of Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick touching on the Conclusion, Further Resources, and our concluding notes.  Next week we will begin re-reading Jim Benson’s Why Limit WiP (buy a copy using our Amazon Affiliate link  https://amzn.to/3u6Feml get reading) as we run a poll to select the next of books for the series.  

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When I originally picked this book for the Re-read Saturday feature, I had not read it. However, I am now completing my second time through the book.  One of my reflections is that when I went through the book the first time, the Commitment Conversion was the most important conversation in the book. During my second run-through, I have actually used the Trust Conversation ideas more. I think this points to the fact that with books that you find useful the context or the timeframe or the environment that you’re in will directly influence what you pull out of the book. I think I’ve seen this a number of times when doing past rereads. We are relatively close to the end of this book and need to start deciding on what the next book in the series will be. Are there suggestions for which books should be in the next poll? 

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Week 8 of our re-read of  Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick concludes our read of Chapter 5 addressing the ‘Why Conversation’. Last week we addressed two areas in this chapter: position and interests and inquiry and advocacy. This week I have been considering the topic of Joint Design. Squirrel and Fredrick introduce the topic by discussing the story of the introduction of cake mixes. As someone that has spent more time in business school classrooms at the undergrad and graduate levels, I have heard this story used to support all sorts of marketing and product design strategies. The fact that packaged cake mixes did not take off until the instructions prompted people to add their own egg. The story is less a reflection of good product development than a reflection of core human nature. How many times have you either experienced or seen a suggested approach rejected only to reappear minutes later with a minor twist added by someone to great acclaim? I have mentally screamed, “hey that’s my idea” more than once in my career. I now realize that this is akin to someone adding their own egg. All leaders or influencers need to understand the need for people to help shape the world they work and live in. 

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Several of the five conversations require more than a few hundred words to explore and experiment with; the Fear Conversation is one of those conversations. The Fear Conversation is in Chapter 4 of Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick, and we began discussing it last week We discussed two of the three major concepts in Chapter 4 last week, but we did not consider the fear conversation and more specifically the fear chart. Many years ago I worked with a manager, Rich Hisrich at BancSystems/EDS. I was the QA manager at the site. It was through my interaction with RIch that I learned the value of whiteboards and visualization. 

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Chapter 4 of Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick tackles the fear conversation. Fears have a significant impact on what we think and how we behave. The changes that fear drives don’t stop at individuals, rather the behavior changes ripple through organizations. For example, fear is a major contributor to hybridizing frameworks (Fear Driven Agile Hybrids).

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Chapter 2 of Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick is titled, Improving Your Conversations.  First an update on my conversation experiment from last week. Last week I wanted to review my conversations to determine if I was correctly assessing scenarios using the Cynefin Framework. There was at least one conversation where I misjudged the complexity.  Whereas the participants viewed the scenario being discussed to be complicated (the solution being a framework or best practices), I viewed the scenario as complex or possibly chaotic.  The differences in mental models made the conversation tense and ungratifying. In my mind, my failure was not recognizing the issue until I was reviewing the conversation after the fact (one of the Four Rs in Chapter 2). I think a better approach, for me, will be to assess the complexity of the scenario before the conversion in the future. Perhaps a form of conversational premortem. 

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Happy New Year!  If you are reading this on the day it is first posted, we are just beginning a new year with all the expectations and possibilities.  Starting a re-read is a great way to start the new year. Today we start into Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick by charting the predicted course of the re-read and touch on the introduction.  The version of the book I am reading is the paperback version copyrighted 2020 by IT Revolution. The book consists of an introduction, seven numbered chapters, a conclusion, and 20 pages of end matter. All of this is over 223 pages.

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As 2021 comes to a close we bring our re-read of Project to Product to a close as well (buy a copy and dive into the book https://amzn.to/2WzvPac – Amazon Affiliate link). The conclusion of the book brings the discussion back as a reflection on the turning point of the Age of Software. Given that this is my third read of this book my perception may be different than yours. At a philosophical level, I think the discussion of the macro change model, Kondratiev Wave discussed in the Introduction and Chapter 1, is extremely powerful. Perhaps the current pandemic makes me more aware of the slowing wave of disruption and the gathering wave of consolidation – this is a feature of Kondratiev Waves.  We have passed the turning point, and the survival of organizations requires focus. 

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