Do Not Erase



I can still hear the panicked conversation from down hall “I came in this morning and the plan we worked on all day yesterday is gone.” There were other words but I would like to keep this  business friendly. We have all probably had something like this happen. Early in my career as a consultant I got some great advice, “always have a backup”. Unfortunately you tend to get that kind of great advice right after something really bad happens. If you have not experienced the cleaned blackboard or presentation file that won’t open yet take this advice to heart.

Having a backup does not have to be a big deal. Keep a copy of your presentation on paper or thumb drive. If you have spent the day noodling on a black or white board use your cell phone to take a picture or go old school and copy everything down. I have always wondered if the cure for cancer has been made only to be erased overnight when someone misses the “please keep” sign.



All project teams have to balance the tension between what the business wants (aspirations) and what can be delivered (capacity). The overlap is what the team can commit to delivering. There are several ways to manage this tension. The first is the tried and true method of just telling the team what it will deliver. This usually has negative consequences. The second is to work on syncing aspirations with capacity. Karl Scotland describes this as moving work to the team. A third method is to foster learning within the team, so that it grows its capacity and commit to more (and perhaps different) work. I have worked for organizations that exhibit the first type of behavior and would rather not do that again. In later years I have worked for organizations that embrace both of the later scenarios and the teams are far happier!

Lots of Coleslaw

I love coleslaw . . . I am not really sure what it is but I love it.  However, I could not eat coleslaw at every meal, every day for months on end.  Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.  For example, if some testing is good a lot of testing might not be better or even good.  The goal of implementing any process is to find a balance between all of the team needs and to provide a feedback loop so that the process can be regulated.  Only implement the steps that are absolutely needed, make sure they can be regulated based on both data and expert knowledge, and only use a step for as long as it needed.   Finally lets get back to the coleslaw, please send me a clean fork because I have a long way to go!

2-12 2013 Room With A View

A Room With A View

It is easy to become enamored with the practices that have gotten you where you are today.  Where you are today is fine, for today but without innovation you probably will be less happy with where you will be in the future. Take a look out of the metaphorical window at the world around you.

Benchmark your process, techniques or organization against someone better than yourself and see what you learn.  Whether you benchmark formally or informally is less important than the looking out the window.  If you take the time to look out the window you just might discover something extraordinary.

Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

Beware Of Poisonous SnakesHiking and delivering change have similar aspects.  Neither activity is without dangers.  As a change agent you need to be aware that not everyone will be as excited by the changes you bring to the organization as you are. Some will be openly critical and others will hide their criticism behind a veneer of approval and support. I am always disappointed by this type of resistance therefore I am often disappointed. What I am is not thwarted.

As with snakes, forewarned is forearmed. Delivering a change requires aligning you allies, marketing your change, providing support, listening to feedback and considering who will resist both overtly and covertly.  Having a plan to deal with problems you can anticipate before they crop up makes sense unless creating the plan stops you from delivering. Waiting until everyone is on your side or you have a plan to deal with every eventuality will cause planning paralysis and you will never deliver. Plan your route, tell someone where you are going, grab a snake bite kit and then hit the trail.  Just watch for the snakes!


The use of standing teams is central tool in the Agile arsenal.  However, what this means exactly seems to be a point of much discussion and has the appearance of being haphazardly applied in many organizations.  I have occasionally taken classes on team hunts after discussing the definition of team (fun class game).  On these team hunts we discovered teams that are as large as 20 – 30 people, and sometimes as small as one.  Both these extremes generate some great discussion.  Occasionally we go back later in the week to find that the teams have changed.  The general concept is that people and skills are assembled, then called teams, because all managers know that teams are “good.”

A better approach is to form the work and bring it to the team rather than forming and reforming the team.  The approach of bringing the work to the team provides a stability which allows the team time to bond, build an understanding of capabilities (perhaps even learn from each other) and foster trust.  While not all skills will get fully used in each unit of work, my observation has been that the diversity of skills helps provide more innovative results and the team provides higher levels of efficiency despite the perception of some inefficiency in utilization.


In the States it has become fairly common to find an impromptu memorial where a major traffic accident has occurred. I recently on a hike ran across a memorial to someone’s favorite dog. It has become easy and acceptable to memorialize loss. Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying” described in her famous book identified five stages of grief which includes denial, arguing  bargaining, depression and acceptance  I would suggest that memorialization reflects acceptance.

Change and loss tend to follow similar paths. Memorializing how we worked in the past may well be a reflection of acceptance of what is being done now. As a change agent you do not need to react to every memorialization as a sign of push back  Reflect carefully what is being really said and try to help your organization through acceptance.

Sherbrooke Dam Wild Water

A few drips of water are fairly non-threatening. Rarely can a drip or two wash people or cars away or change the flow of a river. Constricting the flow of water harnesses a great deal of potential energy that when released can be used to generate power if it is run through a turbine or if released randomly the impact might be difficult to control.

Develop a backlog of potential changes and keep the list prioritized so that the effort you have to affect change can be channeled for greatest value. A backlog of process improvements is very much like the dam that collects the drips of water until it can drive the turbine of change. Like the dam if it is always collecting and never being relieved it burst and change will happen in a much less controlled manner.

Moral High Ground?



Own The Moral High Ground

A few months ago I was walking the streets of Washington DC and I came across five DC police motorcycles parked outside of a bar. While I believe the police were working a crowd down the street I heard a number of people wondering if they were inside drinking. Perceptions count.

If you are documenting and selling (ok persuading) processes you need to make sure you are using the same basic processes.  Way too often I find that change agents and process teams seem to believe that process is for “those guys” but not for them. They seem to be amazed at the level of animosity that their perceived arrogance creates. Own the moral high ground! Owning the moral high ground begins by holding yourself (and your team) to the same or higher standard that you hold up for others and being aware of where you park.