A significant amount of transformation and leadership literature centers on establishing or changing the culture centered on values. Instant problem.  According to the Harvard Business Review online article on organizational culture (May 2013)  “there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is.” There are two common threads in the definition of organizational culture; definitions that center on value, and definitions that center on behaviors. Many change leaders espouse value-centric definitions.  This decision causes them to focus their efforts on changing values in order to change the culture. These change programs are immediately starting in a difficult position. Values are amorphous.  Every individual interprets specific values differently.  For example, I asked several friends to define creativity.  Each person had a different definition.  Some of the differences were more than mere nuances.  Our individual interpretations would make the outcome of embracing the value of creativity unpredictable.  The variability of how we interpret values make it difficult create a common vision and then elicit a common outcome. Diversity makes this issue even more problematic.   As someone schooled in the need for measurement and feedback, the lack of a clear definition makes monitoring and measuring a change in the values at best difficult and often outside of the expertise of most internal measurement groups.  Without a clear definition and without a mechanism for monitoring change, talking about values is merely window dressing. (more…)

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From the Princess Bride

Leadership is a critical requirement to attain any significant goal.  The transmission mechanism from leadership to action (and back again) can be distilled into a finite set of actions.  These actions represent a cycle.  Good leaders hit every step in this cycle.  Good leaders: (more…)

Leadership provides vision and the motivation needed to push the boundaries, change direction and challenge the status quo.  Each leader takes a different path; therefore, there is a myriad of leadership (and leadership’s alter ego: management) styles, however, there are three leadership archetypes typically seen in Agile teams.  They are: (more…)

Teams thrive on reciprocity.

Biases affect everyone’s behavior in all walks of life.  In a recent Freakonomics podcast, The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money, Stephen Dubner described the impact of various cognitive biases on the behaviors of many well-known money managers (and nearly 70% of the investors in the world).  The people on teams involved in the development, support and maintenance of software products are not immune to the impact of biases.  After the publication of our essay A Return to Cognitive Biases, Steven Adams asked “What biases/fallacies might a developer fall prey to when testing code that he or she developed?” It is a great question that gets to the heart of why understanding cognitive biases is important for leaders and team members.  We will return to the question after we added two more biases to our growing pallet of biases that we have explored. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 441 features our interview with John Le Drew.  John and I discussed the concept of safety at work, and how safety, or the lack of it, affects the effectiveness of software teams.

John’s bio . . .

In almost 2 decades working in software engineering, John Le Drew has worked as a software engineer, team lead, project manager, product owner, trainer, agile coach, and consultant. Working with clients ranging from small start-ups to multinationals.

Through Wise Noodles he has helped organizations solve tough technical problems by untangling their people problems. John hosts The Agile Path Podcast; producing in-depth audio documentaries on the topics that most affect organizations transitioning to agile ways of working.

The manifesto for agile software development and the principles behind it is central to how John approaches software and value development. Working with organizations to help them learn to apply the principles has become a passion. There is nothing more exciting to John than seeing a team surprise themselves with potential they did not realize they had. Contact John via email at john@wisenoodles.com. (more…)

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There are those who believe that implementing a capability team is as easy as identifying a group of people, putting them together, and then doing a few team building exercises. Instant team! In the simplest terms possible – they are wrong.  There are four complicating factors that have to be addressed. (more…)

Not Exactly A Capability Team, But Close!

One of the holy grails of Agile in software development and other business scenarios is how to organize so that stable teams are efficient, effective and safe. The great preponderance of organizations use some variant of an organizational model that groups people by specialty and then allocate them to project teams.  This creates a matrix in which any practitioner will be part of two or more teams, which, in turn, means they have two or more managers and serve two or more masters.  People, like desks, chairs, and laptops, flow to the area of need, disband, and then return to a waiting pool until needed again.  One of the basic assumptions is that, within some limits, people are fungible and can be exchanged with relative impunity.  This approach has problems.  Ariana Racz, Senior Quality Assurance Analyst, provided a great summary of what is wrong with the idea that people are fungible in her response to Get Rid of Dynamic Teams: The Teams.  Ariana stated, “A resource on paper is not a resource in application.” In most circumstances, dynamic/matrixed teams reduce the productivity of knowledge workers. (more…)