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Mitch Lacey

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since Feb 24, 2016
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Recent posts by Mitch Lacey

Junilu Lacar wrote:Also, if I were consultant or even an internal coach, I would think twice about coming in to try and turn a hostile audience around. The really tough part, and I have seen and experienced this, is judging just how hostile the audience is. It could range from simple apathy to skepticism to passive-aggressive to jaded cynicism to outright dislike and open defiance. I think it could be worth a shot and even a fun challenge up until you get to passive-aggressive. At some point you just have to accept the fact that you can only lead a horse to water or open the door of the burning barn.

Agreed, and I never, ever do this. It's not my job, nor should it be anyones, to sell or convince, it's our/my job to help those seeking more knowledge and understanding. How's that for sounding all religious and preachy? Man, even I cringe at that sentence, but what the heck, lets leave it.

Jan de Boer wrote:Yes. But people like me probably won't go to a Scrum course, Mitch.

Oddly enough, I'm in a executive training session not focused on agile or Scrum, not in a Scrum course. So I've got that going for me.

Mitch Lacey wrote:
In particular, I have an exercise I do around the agile practices that my friend Simon Bennett introduced me to years ago. Basically, we map the agile principles to quadrants. The left side is "we see this in our company" and the right side is "we don't see this in our company". Top to bottom is "we value this" to "we don't value this." Maybe value is the wrong word, and that's where our dialog will come into play. I'll time box the conversation after we do the exercise, as I'm sure it could run all day long, but we'll see.

....Changing my wording from "values" or "mindset" to "work ethic" or "ethos" might be good. We'll see what tomorrow holds.

So I ran the exercise this morning. I have people from Romania, Czech, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Russia, Armenia. I went back and recapped our thread with the group and people said they could see how folks might understand this could be a religious / communist / socialist type message by saying "values and principles." However, most came to agreement on that agile (their words) "is a philosophy, not a set of rules, and if you don't understand why you're doing something, then seek it out." What they did not agree with was that there was a single type power saying "this is right and this is wrong and if you do it right then you're in and if you do it wrong then you're cast to the bowels of hell". Someone then asked me why this would be a point of contention to begin with. They continued by saying "just focus on the customers and do a good job with excellence and don't cut corners" and you're fine.

A few people had said they heard the concerns Jan shared, but they themselves did not share those concerns.

Junilu Lacar wrote:Chris, I really appreciate your honest responses about this subject. It can be challenging to separate feelings and perceptions from reason and logic in these types of discussions but I think we've managed to find a balance here. I really do want to figure out how to resolve some of these issues you have highlighted or at least make them more tolerable and less oppressive.

I'll add to this, I appreciate all responses as I'm sure Junilu does. My goal is not to come across as some preachy American - we have enough of those. Maybe "work ethic" or "ethos" is a better term to use than values. I'm in Austria now with some customers and I'm going to pose this question, and raise this conversation, and see what their thoughts are. I've got a wide range of folks from Austria, Germany, Czech and Slovakia - and that was a week ago when I looked. I'm sure I'll have even more.

In particular, I have an exercise I do around the agile practices that my friend Simon Bennett introduced me to years ago. Basically, we map the agile principles to quadrants. The left side is "we see this in our company" and the right side is "we don't see this in our company". Top to bottom is "we value this" to "we don't value this." Maybe value is the wrong word, and that's where our dialog will come into play. I'll time box the conversation after we do the exercise, as I'm sure it could run all day long, but we'll see.

FWIW, I am in Europe once a month. I have been having these value conversations for years and every now and then I see someone get frustrated, calling it religious zealotry, often referring back to history on how certain cultures thought they had all the right answers and forced solutions on people. Changing my wording from "values" or "mindset" to "work ethic" or "ethos" might be good. We'll see what tomorrow holds.

Thanks for the dialog guys.
Hi Jan,

First of all, let me say I don't want to convert anyone to anything. People should be who they are and do what they like.

Here's my view. I see software as a creative process. I see the IDE as a canvas and the system as the art on the wall. I see that in our field of software that people (developers and more) need to work together, and in order to work together well, people need to be on the same page. Consider this an understanding of how things work, and how those people work together to deliver something that the customers would appreciate, just like an artist in a studio building a piece for a show for prospective buyers. A baker, depending on if they are creating to cro-nut or just making twinkies, may or may not be a creative person. The cro-nut certainly is, the twinkie, not so much. A coal miner? Not really creative unless they are looking for ways to prevent deaths, either by cave in or long term health issues, but most coal miners just mine coal. A postal worker? Same thing. Put letter A in box B and repeat. And they want to put food on the table just like me and you and everyone else.

The friends I have in life are very distinct. I grew up basically on a farm, shooting guns, driving tractors, riding dirt bikes, but now I do software. The friends I continue to have share the same values as me. We have the same mindset on many things in life, not all, but many. Of the people I work with, I find that the ones I best get along with are the ones that have a similar mindset - approach to life, values, whatever - as I do. We "get each other". And there are plenty that I don't get, or don't get me, but we still work together - we just don't have that personal bond that I find I have with others of similar values, even with widely different backgrounds and life experiences.

Now, if you've come across people that are zealots (the religious part of your post), then yeah, I agree, they are d-bags. Nobody should define what is good for a population, large or small. History, past and recent, has plenty of examples where this is a bad idea. "You are standing in the way of progress" is an excuse for egocentric, authoritarian auctions that just don't have a place.

Lastly, you say people don't want a value system, they just want to do their jobs. That's fine. There are plenty of companies hiring people to just "do their jobs". Chrysler in the 80's had plenty of that, just look at their products of that era - doors didn't align with the body - but it wasn't the fault of the guy who installed the door if the body joints were not aligned properly, he's just doing his job of installing doors. Most people I find in this agile camp want more than to just do their jobs, they want to make their customers super stoked by giving them what they meant, not what they asked for, and doing it in a timely fashion in a budget range that was expected. Basically, these workers want to have a good relationship with their customers and stakeholders built on trust. Agile or not, Scrum or not, this is what I strive to do, and when people ask me for help, I help, but I never try to convince.

Enjoy my book. I wrote it with the perfect page count to be used as a monitor stand, so you've got that new benefit which will be in the mail soon. And if you decide to read it, even better.
Thanks for having me! This is a fun group!
Agree. Not my quote either.

Junilu Lacar wrote:I think I got the point of the 10 languages thing but just to make sure I didn't totally miss it, it's that it doesn't matter that you say you do something if that's not actually what you're doing. Just saying that you do something doesn't necessarily make it so.

Correct. Just because you say you do it doesn't make it true.

Junilu Lacar wrote:I agree, don't DO Agile, BE agile. That's why in my own circles, I tend to promote principles and values more than practices and prescriptions. Even with things like TDD, I talk more about principles of design and development more than anything else.

You got it! BE agile is the key. It's the mindset, not the action, that drives the change.

Junilu Lacar wrote:There's a spectrum that Ahmed Sidky shows in one of his presentations where you have a few principles on one end and a bunch of practices on the other end. I definitely tend to start on the principle side of that spectrum. For me there's longevity and depth of understanding when you start with principles move towards adopting various practices even though it takes longer to see tangible benefits from them. When you start with the practices, there might be some short term tangible results but without deeper understanding of principles, the practices become cargo cultish and are not sustainable or very effective in the long term.

One last thing, my former manager, current manager, and I were relatively successful in promoting a healthy agile mindset on our teams. One of the things we used was Christopher Avery's Responsibility Framework. We thought that the idea of ownership and responsibility over accountability aligned well with our own personal values and working relationships and that's what we tried to instill in the rest of our team members.

Yes, both are good. Starting with the practices without knowing why is always cause for failure down the road.

I'd love to see you at Agile2016! I hope you get accepted!


Hi German,

Like Junilu said, with people come politics. What I find is that with any transition, people get scared. After all, think of the poor project manager. Their job, on paper, is going away. There is no PM job in Scrum or any of the agile practices. This is a scary thing! As long as you go into this with that understanding, you'll find life to be a lot easier. Help guide people, share knowledge and understanding, heck even create a book club! The bonding that happens as people learn together lasts forever.

meenakshi sundar wrote:
What if I mix and match some best aspects of other Agile process tools like XP and Kanban and still can i run my project in Scrum majorly? Or would that completely become a Hybrid model?
Would you recommend that scenario?

Hi Meenakshi,

At the end of the day, you can do whatever you like. Just understand every decision you make will have a positive (your goal) and negative (your unintended result) action. For example, lets say that we condense the daily Scrum to a weekly meeting. We save 15 minutes, so now we have "fewer, shorter meetings" (your goal). The negative pattern you introduced, however, is that the team now has one opportunity per week to sync up and identify impediments, issues, challenges, etc, that would have otherwise surfaced in a daily meeting.

Another example that I have to deal with every day of my life. Our family / my bloodline has diabetes. I have high cholesterol (250+) and very high blood sugar (110+) and as a result, I've been told that I can either 1) watch my diet and exercise, or 2) take drugs. I'm not a big drug fan so I elect to fight this through option one. This means that if I have some chocolate today at lunch, or something sweet, I can't have anything this evening - not even a beer or a glass of wine because that will create an imbalance in my system and that if I want to live long and prosper, I better watch it. Now, I don't have to watch it. I could choose to skip both option one and two and eat however I want, whenever I want -- after all, I'm an adult! But I have to understand the impact of my decisions. Sure, I won't see a problem today but over time, I'll see a change, and it won't be something I like.

Here's my take. Do Scrum, or Kanban, or XP, or anything - by the book. Learn it, practice it, and most importantly, understand why these agile practices work the way they do. Only then can you step back and say "OK, I get this, lets run a small test and tweak X or Y for two weeks and see what happens" - but you can't do that until you have a solid baseline and a good working knowledge of why things work the way they do. But if you mix things up, don't call it what it's not. I only speak the English language, and I don't run around speaking English and calling it Mandarin or Japanese or German, because that'd just be silly.
Hello Junilu

Thank you for the well written and thoughtful post.

I often hear the argument of "my scrum is not your scrum" or something along those lines. It's frustrating. Your post reminds me of a story I tell in leadership sessions. It goes like this.

I ask people the benefits of being clean. The most common answers are habit, feels good, helps me wake up, hygiene. Then I tell these three stories.

When my kids were young, like 3-5 years, they'd play outside. Imagine a nice summer day. Birds, sun, bbq is going. The kids play in the mud and make mud pies. My wife and I say "time to eat lunch, get cleaned up" and they go to the hose, rinse their hands (at best) and come to the door and say "food!" - we say "you are filthy, go take a bath" and they say no. So we explain the benefits of cleanliness - they won't be stinky, they won't get sick, they won't spread disease and germs, etc. After this, what do they say when we ask them to take a bath? "NO!" - Toddlers.

When the oldest learned to drive, I asked her to take a box to a customer for me, about 1 mile away. She asked where it was, I told her and she said "oh, I know right where to go, easy, thanks" with an eye roll. I continued "but it's hard to see, there are trees, if you pass the grocery store, you've gone to far..." I did this because the building was well hidden. "I know where I'm going, geez, don't treat me like I'm 10! I'm 16 now, you know! I know what to do! Why don't you trust me?" Fine, then go, and she does, and comes back almost an hour later. "What took you so long?" I ask. "I don't want to talk about it!" she yells. The boy chimes in "she got lost and wouldn't listen to me even though I knew were to go!" - Teenagers.

Now, for the rest of us. As adults, we know what we want out of life, what we're comfortable with, our values, our principles. We ask for help if we are stuck or don't understand something. We seek opportunities to learn. We help teach others. We have a passion for success - not just ours, but for everyone - friends, co-workers, etc.

If I explain why being clean is important, the adults will get it; the teenagers will tell me I'm wrong and that their way is right, and the toddlers will just say no. Why? Teenager and toddler mindsets prevent learning, accountability, ownership and all the things that make adults what they are. I see this mindset in companies far and wide, and when people at large companies say "oh, we do agile" I ask and they describe what you describe - a wolf in sheeps clothing. Then I say I can speak 10 languages, they name them and I say yes, then I continue speaking in English and ask "how was my Afrikaans?" when I'm done. The point is made.

Now, do we need agile reform? Yes. Can we do it in a big movement? Maybe. My approach is to start one (or 10) at a time and just help them understand why the way of thinking is of far more value then the way of doing. Ownership and accountability is a funny thing, and I don't think we can help the people that have been burned unless they want to come back to the fire.

Hi German,

What do you mean? I don't go into topics on how all the other roles work in Scrum, as there are just three roles. I do, however, highlight the importance of teamwork, collective ownership and succeeding or failing as a team.

Hi, like Tim and others have said, there is *NO* silver bullet - in life or anything - I have found.

People often look at agile practices to fix their company problems, but often times the true solution is overlooked, the people.

You see, agile is not only a way of doing, but more importantly a way of thinking. It will guide you in how you approach problems and how you explore solutions, whereas a traditional approach is like a script - take two of these and your problems will go away.

Where I often see this silver bullet mindset is with some company leaders. One once said to me the reason they adopted agile was "so that we would be guaranteed to not fail" which of course is just not true. I said you will fail, just sooner, and you'll be able to learn, reflect and adapt. They said this was not an option, and I said then you should not do the project. You'll fail, it's just a matter of when you choose to do it.

But no, no panacea, no silver bullets and sadly, no unicorns.
Hey guys! Thanks! I'm looking forward to the week!