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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One of the fun parts of programming the Software Process and Measurement Cast is getting diverse groups of people together to chat.  In this edition of the podcast, Jon M Quigley, Jeremy Willets, Jeremy Berriault, Kevin Rush, Susan Parente, and myself convened to discuss what we learned about work in 2021. The last few years have been extraordinary — both good and bad. When you live in times like these it is incumbent on all of us to learn from them.

The panelists (other than myself) are:

Jeremy Berriault https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-berriault-mba/ Web: https://berriaultandassociates.com/ 

Susan Parente linkedin.com/in/susanparente Web: http://www.s3-tec.com/

Jon M Quigley linkedin.com/in/jonmquigley Web: https://www.valuetransform.com/product-development-tools/

Kevin Rush linkedin.com/in/kezrush Twitter: @Kezrush

Jeremy Willets linkedin.com/in/jeremywillets   Blog: https://www.jeremywillets.com/ 

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SPaMCAST 684 posts on January 2nd, 2022.  The new year evokes both retrospection and expectations for the future. 2021 was quite the year; SPaMCAST 635 marked the beginning of our 15th year of publishing with a conversation with Johanna Rothman (SPaMCAST 635 – Practical Ways to Manage, A Conversation with Johanna Rothman). That was our most downloaded cast of 2021.  In late August I lost a podcast . . . (a summer rerun), SPaMCAST 668 has attained the status of the Lost Show. Somehow while I was backpacking on Isle Royale the preprogrammed show failed to post.  I have a backup but it is more fun to have a lost cast.  I will rectify the situation at some point when I stop being amused. The year ended with my 12-year-old mixer going to the electronics recycler. The new mixer should be delivered soon. Even with all of the hassle, I have been able to do three great interviews and two related panel discussions that will round out year 15 and kick-off year 16. That’s the long way to say that even though I am struggling through a website issue and a switchover of hardware, I am currently planning years 16 and 17. 

Happy New Year, and now back to our regularly scheduled programming with Tony Timbol and his To Tell A Story column.  This installment tackles product owners and work entry. 

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This week we are taking a quick journey into a discussion of prioritization outside of a team or an organization’s span of control. It is easy to confuse influence and actually be able to exert control over an outcome.  Wishful thinking often can lead to frustration. 

Tony TImbol also brings his “To Tell A Story” column to the cast building on the ideas that are central fro good user stores.  Check out Tony’s Product Owner training events at http://tonytimbol.com/events/  This week to talk about the product owner’s role in writing and maintaining user stories. 

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Today we will speak to Kit Merker, COO of Nobl9 about Service Level Objectives (SLO). Kit provides down-to-earth advice for adopting and using SLOs to benefit teams AND organizations. 

Kit’s bio:

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Today we feature our interview with Vincent Hendersen. We talked about scaling agility up — not the same as scaling agile. Mr. Hendersen and I discussed thinking about agile as a service to align team and portfolio. This is a most thought-provoking interview. The idea of thinking about agile teams as a subscription model shifts the whole agile paradigm.

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In the essay today, prioritization requires a steady hand and consistency. The process for prioritization should have more in common with a well-oiled basketball or futbol team than five-year-olds playing soccer in the schoolyard. How the moving parts work together is a process, but in some circles, “process” is a dirty word.  

On the conversation side, Jeremy Berriault brings his QA Corner to the cast. We discuss test automation plans and strategies in agile. 

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Today, we feature an essay titled, So I Asked What Is Agile. A simple question that yields interesting answers. One interesting outcome was that answers fit into three categories. We explore the process and people-oriented groups this week. I will come back to the rant category later this month.  

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If you ask the question what is agile in polite company you get a wide range of answers. I know because I have asked that question in polite and less cultured environments. Polite answers focus on ceremonies, people, mindsets, guardrails, or paths. The less than polite are usually a version that people are using the term agile as a form of gaslighting.  Pushing aside the last group, at least for now, we are left with two categories of answers. The first focusing on process and the second on people. Both are right because both reflect different real-world contexts and different personal and organizational needs. Perception of “what” is agile, how you define agile, is heavily influenced by what you want from agile; the why of agile. This is true for practitioners as well as organizations which is why specific agile practitioners are more comfortable in some organizations and vice versa. As a consultant, I have seen a wide spectrum of definitions — all tied to the reason the organization is interested in agile. 

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Until this week, Disciplined Agile was a topic we had not investigated on the Software Process and Measurement Cast. DA is an approach to scaling agile development.  Today, Jonathan Lee and I discuss Disciplined Agile and reinventing yourself to stay relevant in a dynamic world. 

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