Team-level learning requires intent. Team learning, and group learning generally, is NOT random. If it was random or automatic, then our families, our teams, our organizations, even our societies, would automatically learn, and evolve. Instead, in terms of learning, we typically DEVOLVE in groups. We become ineffective after a while. That is what is automatic.
If we want to adapt, we must learn quickly as a group. Especially in times that feature lots of change, like the times we are living through right now. Organizations that learn faster than peers eclipse them, leave them in the dust, call it whatever you want. If we can figure out how to learn as a group, we have the secret to just about everything.
A valid question to ask is: why are we so dumb when we get into groups? Why do we design and implement soul-sucking interactions, stupid meetings, and ineffective team and organizational structures? Why do we behave badly? Why don’t we wise up??
One answer may be found in a community of folks called the Group Relations (GR) community. They are curators of a body of knowledge based upon the work of Alfred Bion. He developed a kind of depth-psychology for explaining what goes on in groups.
I attended a GR conference in 2008 and it opened my eyes. A pure experiential conference, the event focuses on the study of leadership and authority in groups. The object of study is the behavior of all attendees over a 4-5 day period.
Team learning, and group learning generally, is NOT random. If it was random or automatic, then our families, our teams, our organizations, even our civilization, would automatically learn, and evolve. If learning in groups was automatic, we’d be done with world hunger, and cancer, and war. We’d be colonizing other planets. We’d be done with poverty on earth.
We get dumb when we get into groups. Period. That is what is automatic. Opposing this pattern requires full intent. My book is one small contribution to the body of knowledge around team learning. Team-level learning requires intent. The good news is, We now know how to do it. People like Jim and Michele McCarthy, Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, folks in the GR community … all of these folks are pointing the way. We can literally create genius teams- IF WE WANT TO.
We have the technology to routinely do this. The problem is conquered.
Everything is framed by language. Change the language and you are changing the game. This is as aspect of culture covered in my book, The Culture Game.
Naming things makes sense of the world, yet it can be bad for teams. Ironically, naming things reduces the flow of We. That is because the names are literally symbolic of things. Names create very real divisions.
Nominalization is one way we make sense of things. Nominalization assigns names to things and reduces them to nouns. Nominalization is a linguistic device that allows you to turn a verb (and other word types) into nouns. It’s a trap that can limit perception and thinking at the level of We. Nominalization creates opportunities for division to occur. For example, this cannot be that if this is not(that). I am describing the divisions: these divisions reduce the flow of We. Nominalization creates linguistic (and therefore very real) division inside the mind of groups.
On the other hand, anything that increases the flow of We is insanely great. Some specific, named socio-technologies that help do this include:
There are others like these; I have a name for them as a group.
When I tell you the name, it is sure to reduce the flow of We in the community of readers. Why?
Because as soon as I divulge the name, then the discussions start, describing: how this is not that, how this is inferior to that, how that is crap compared to this, and so on. Eventually, I have to tell you the name, so We can talk about it. There is no other way. I plan to wait until at least a few people comment on this post, to get the ball rolling. That is the signal I am waiting for. If I do not get any comments, that is my signal to wait. See also: semiotics.
Scrum is a framework optimized on greatness for teams, mostly software teams. Other complex, engineered product teams can also do well with Scrum. Most engineering teams are populated with introverted people. You can quickly identify the introverts: they say little or nothing when attending meetings.
These types of engineering-oriented teams are typically populated with left-brained, problem-solving introverts who get paid for right answers. I think Scrum actually adjusts for this via the second Scrum ceremony: The Daily Scrum.
Introverts find extended socializing to be sub-optimal for their personality type. Introverts do not like extended ‘blending’ and prefer away-time. Meanwhile, software and other complex products simply refuse to ship until and unless the people making the products get the teamwork figured out.
So, on the one hand, great engineers are often quite introverted. On the other hand, we all need to be working together and communicating effectively. Scrum handles this with the Daily Scrum meeting.
1. The Daily Scrum is 15 minutes long. Yes, this encourages smaller team size. I also think is is kept short so even introverts can be comfortable with it.
2. The Daily Scrum encourages (introverted) team members to disclose essential info about the work. Introverts (and most other types) do NOT do this automatically.
3. The Daily Scrum repeats, is predictable, and not random or ad-hoc. This makes it easier for introverts to agree to participate in it.
The Daily Scrum makes it easy for introverts to show up, and tell the truth about the work…in 15 minutes or less. Brilliant!
A great article on the dynamics of creativity, collaboration overload and introverts is available below from the NYT if you might like to do a deep dive on introverts and the Scrum connection. I believe Scrum is optimized for easy participation by left-brained, problem solving introverts.
This post is over. Way too much blending; I need my away-time. Nothing personal you understand. Talk to you later.
This is an AFTERNOON 1/2 day conference event, designed for you to easily attend during your working day. You work the AM, go to lunch in your usual way, and then BOOK OFF the rest of the day to enjoy some of the best Agile sessions found anywhere!
We have Agile authority Ken Schwaber keynoting, then a great Agile-adoption case study from inside Connecticut, and more! Come and enjoy a great afternoon of Agile education and socializing with others who are adopting Agile in their Connecticut organizations !
Please consider our GREAT supporter of Agile Connecticut: RALLY SOFTWARE !!
Schedule and Agenda:
1:30PM Welcome and Check-In
1:45PM SESSION 1: Keynote Address by Ken Schwaber, Scrum.Org, on:
THE YEAR JUST PAST
The Standish Group now reports that agile projects are three times more successful than waterfall. People are noticing. Ken will talk about some changes that he and Jeff made to Scrum, how future changes will emerge, and the clarified role of the Product Owner.
3:00PM SESSION 2: Joe Tindal and Brian Summers of MASTERCAM, on:
AGILE IN THE REAL WORLD
Brian Summers and Joe Tindal brought Agile ideas into their company about 1 year ago. Over 90 people are involved in some way in the transition to Agile at MASTERCAM. One year in, what has changed? What was easy? What is still hard? How easy is it to adopt Agile? What aspects of company culture can help or hurt your Agile adoption? This moderated panel discussion provides the answers.
4:15PM SESSION 3: Dan LeFebvre, Agile Coach on:
Self-Organization and Transparency: Team Freedom or a Path to Micro-Management?
With visible task boards, burncharts, and daily Scrums; the team has many tools to organize and manage themselves. But can management abuse these tools? Can it turn into a better way to micro-manage? One of the hardest habits that managers have trouble breaking is the need to drive the team by making task assignments and tracking the results. Even those who truly want to help their teams by managing the task board is not really serving them. Scrum calls for self-organizing teams. The Scrum Master’s job is to help teach the team to self-organize. We’ll talk about how to avoid the traps of micro-management and truly lead the team to freedom at work through self-organization.
5:15PMRAFFLE and DONE (books and other goodies !!)
Ken Schwaber is the Scrum pioneer who created Scrum with Jeff Sutherland in the 1990s. Ken is the leader of Scrum.Org, a credentialing and practitioner assessment organization dedicated to improving the professionalism of software development and Scrum practice worldwide. Read Ken’s Wikipedia profile here. Ken is a genuine pioneer of the Agile movement, participating in the creation of the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Alliance and the Scrum Alliance.
JOE TINDAL and BRIAN SUMMERS:
Joe Tindal is the information technology manager at MASTERCAM in Tolland CT who spearheaded the study and adoption of Agile inside the organization. Joe attended numerous Agile-CT user group meetings, did web research and examined books in preparation for adopting Agile inside MASTERCAM.
Brian Summers is a founder and currently the Vice President of MASTERCAM, the leading CNC software company in the USA. MASTERCAM technology is used by thousands of manufacturing organizations, including some truly awesome companies such as Harley Davidson.
DAN LE FEBVRE:
Dan LeFebvre is the founder of DCL Agility, LLC, a provider of agile and Scrum coaching, training, and transition services. He is the first Certified Scrum Coach in New England with over twenty years in software product development as a developer, manager, director, and coach. He has been applying agile practices to successfully deliver products since 2003.
Dan spent two years as the internal agile coach for Kronos, a Boston-based Software Company, where he coordinated and implemented Scrum within the 700 person engineering organization across all sites including Massachusetts, Atlanta, Chicago, Oregon, Montreal, British Columbia, Belgium and India. This resulted in increased visibility into the development process and a reduction in defects by 60% in 18 months.
Dan holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Boston University. He is a Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Professional, and Certified Scrum Coach. He has presented at the Scrum Gathering and local user groups and has contributed articles to the Scrum Alliance and Boston SPIN.
Dan Mezick is an expert adviser on Agile who delivers Agile coaching and guidance to teams, departments and corporate executives. He is the author of The Culture Game, a book of practices derived from Agile that managers use to promote more learning and agility inside their teams and the wider organization. His coaching clients include Mass Mutual, Hartford Insurance, CIGNA, Sikorsky Aircraft, Zappos Insights, Orpheus Orchestra, and dozens of mid-size organizations.
Agility as a process is fairly well understood today in feedback generating iterations or limited work-in-process flows. Agility as a structure is becoming better understood in creating cross-functional teams working collaboratively through the iterative or flow-based process. However, Agility as a culture has very little language or exposure – yet organizational culture impacts every attempt at agility.
This session provides a language and visualization for organizational culture, its impact on organizational agility, and company examples of how exposing culture has aided their adoption of agile. We will visualize and explore a cultures within single organizations, sub-cultures across functional boundaries within larger organizations, and cultures bridging corporate mergers.
About the Speaker
Pete Behrens is the Founder and President of Trail Ridge Consulting, a firm specializing in leadership agility and enterprise-wide agile transformation and adoption. Certified as a Scrum Trainer (CST), Scrum Coach (CSC), and Leadership Agility 360 Coach (LA360), Pete enables high-performing adaptive environments through a focus on leadership and organizational agility. Examples of Pete’s work can be found at Salesforce.com, McKinsey & Company, GE Healthcare IT, Staples, and Google. Additionally, Pete is active in the agile and Scrum community. Pete led the development of the Certified Scrum Coaching (CSC) program for the Scrum Alliance and continues to serve as the program lead. Through this program, Pete collaborates with coaching peers from around the globe to better understand the skills, competencies and tools required for coaching successful and sustaining agile organizations. He is also a Program Lead for the upcoming Agile 2012 Conference in Dallas, TX.
Special SHORT Presentation at 630PM:
EPIC TEAMS & PERSONAL MASTERY with Shelli Johnson
Personal mastery is one of the 5 disciplines described by Peter Senge in the popular business book, THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE, which published for the first time in 1990. Personal mastery, like perfection, is impossible. What IS possible is a commitment to continuous improvement in the direction of mastery.
Join us at 630PM to experience the personal mastery story of life coach Shelli Johnson. A native of Wyoming, Shelli comes to Boston to tell her story and explain the relationship between personal mastery and the Epic Win.
About Shelli Johnson:
Shelli Johnson is a life/leadership coach, entrepreneur, consultant, strategist and travel blogger who hails from the frontier of Wyoming.
In 1994, Johnson started Yellowstone Journal Corporation and NationalParkTrips. Over the course of 15 years, she and her small team (organically) grew the company, including the Webby Award-winning YellowstonePark.com, and expanded it to include several products, before selling it in 2008 to Active Interest Media.
Shelli provides personal coaching that dares clients to live as if they’re dying, like every day counts. Johnson uses the outdoors, and route-finding, literally and metaphorically, in to help clients chart their own course and to create meaning in their personal and professional lives.
An avid outdoor adventurer, Johnson designs a guided “epic adventure” outdoors– in combination with coaching. During the adventure, clients are pushed physically, mentally and emotionally. The experience not only provides clients with an unforgettable, inspiring experience with a health benefit, but most importantly, provides a platform from which to practice for life’s hardships and challenges. In the process, clients expand their leadership abilities and gain increased confidence and clarity.
In her presentation, Johnson shares her insights about personal development, teams and the Epic Win. She discusses the importance of actively choosing to pursue big audacious goals, and why signing up for a challenge is an essential aspect of personal and team development.
Core Protocols BOOTCAMP PART 1, with book authors Jim and Michele McCarthy in BOSTON…
Your team can be ten times better.
What does that mean?
That means your work team can get 10x more done, do it with 10x more quality, 10x faster, or with 10x less resources. Your family can be 10x happier. Your school can be 10x more effective at helping people learn. Your community group can be 10x better at making life better for the people it serves. Even you yourself can be 10x more effective at getting what you want.
In other words, you can be great. Your team can be great.
Can you say these things about your teams?
My projects effortlessly complete on schedule and in budget every time.
Every team I’ve ever been on has shared vision.
In meetings, we only ever do what will get results.
No one here blames “management”, or anyone else, if they don’t get what they want.
Everybody here shares their best ideas right away.
Ideas are immediately unanimously approved, improved, or rejected by the team.
Action on approved ideas begins immediately.
Conflict is always resolved swiftly and productively.
The Core Protocols are one way to make teams that have these characteristics.
Core Protocols BOOTCAMP PART 1 with Jim and Michele McCarthy in BOSTON…February 14 and 15 2012
A reliable way to learn how to create great teams is to participate in BootCamp. BootCamp Part 1 is a 2-day immersive simulation where teams can intensively practice the Core Protocols.
The intense Boot Camp experience includes all of the failures and triumphs that occur with normal team formation; the creation of a team-shared vision; and the design, implementation, and delivery of a product. The days in each BootCamp are packed with accelerated team dynamics; what usually takes a year or more is created in a couple of long days and nights of exceptionally deep engagement. BootCamp Part 1 takes the participants through the first half of a full product delivery simulation.
Becoming a Great Team
The training will teach you skills, but the main thing that BootCamp provides is the experience of being on a great team. Having that feeling makes it easier to navigate back to greatness once you return to work with your team.
BootCamps are helpful because they can produce a Booted team more quickly than if the team were to just use the Core Protocols during day-to-day work. Instructors help coach the team as they form a team and then deliver great products on time.
The new skills you learn help you notice the barriers to greatness that exist in your mind. Practicing the Core with others helps you strip those barriers away. Together with your team you use your skills and your greatness to ship a product. The growth is awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, challenging, and exhilarating all at once. You feel what being part of a high-performance team is like. Because – you actually are part of a high-performance team.
Some of the things you’ll learn:
How to enter a state of shared vision with a team and stay there,
How to create trust on a team
How to stay rational and healthy
How to make team decisions effectively, and
How to move quickly and with high quality towards the team’s goals.
Name your price by registering early. Cost for 2 days of experiential learning starts at $600 and that is just $300 a day. Prices go up as tickets are sold, peaking at $1000 which is $500 per student day. Register early to get the lowest possible price. Do it now !
Please join us for the January meeting of Agile Boston. (We always meet the 4th Wednesday of the month). The book LEADERSHIP AGILITY, describes stages of development in leaders of organizations. The model has 5 levels: Expert, Achiever, Catalyst, Co-Creator, and the Synergist. At each level the leader displays more and more reflection, perspective-taking, and insight. These are the very skills leaders need when contemplating an Agile adoption.
Bill Joiner’s Jan. 25 presentation, based on his award-winning book Leadership Agility, was well-attended and well-received. For managers who are members of Agile Boston he is now offering a special discount on his most popular workshop, the Agile Change-Leader Lab (April 12-13). To take an extra $200 off the $180 early-bird discount currently in effect, sign up by Feb. 24 and use the promo code “Agile Boston,” a total discount of $380. For more information about the workshop and to register, go to www.changewise.biz/?page_id=1612, You can also access complementary resources by visiting Bill’s website: www.changewise.biz
Bill Joiner, the author of this book, joins us on January 25 (4th Wednesday) to explain the Leadership Agility framework. This meeting is especially important for managers, directors and vice-presidents who are seeking more Agility for their organizations. Leaders set the stage for all that follows and the content in this session is sure to stimulate your thinking about the role of leaders, the stage of development they are at, and how it all fits inside your wider Agile adoption initiatives.
About The Speaker:
Bill Joiner is a seasoned leadership expert and organizational change consultant, with 30 years of experience completing successful engagements with companies based in the US, Canada, and Europe. He is co-author of the book Leadership Agility, and co-developer, with Cambria Consulting, of the Leadership Agility 360, the only online feedback instrument that assesses research-based levels of leadership agility. Bill speaks about leadership agility, partners with senior leaders in developing high performing teams, creating breakthrough strategies, leading organizational change, and redesigning business processes. He also provides leadership workshops and custom-designs and implements action learning programs. He is also the designer or co-designer of most ChangeWise consulting and training services. For nine years, Bill served as an adjunct faculty member for the Leadership for Change program at Boston College.
He has a BA and MBA from Southern Methodist University and earned his Doctorate in Organization Development at Harvard University.
If you check out the Agile Manifesto, you find that we often medicate with the things listed on the right in the Values section.
Medication is usually in the form of a pain killer of some kind. The whole right side of the Agile Manifesto lists various forms of medication that enterprises, departments and teams use to relieve various forms of pain.
Examples of pain-killing medications:
Processes and Tools
Following a Plan
Lets look at each in turn:
Process and Tools
We medicate away from facing [Individual and Interactions] by focusing on processes and tools. We focus on these, and way from [Individual and Interactions] because we might have to get real and face the reality of people and interacting with them. We might have to get some new social skills! Ouch, that smarts. Where are my pills?
This usually manifests as the need for “perfect” and “comprehensive” requirements. We medicate with these, and avoid dealing in the reality that what we must create is [Working Software]. We focus on perfection in requirements, and away from STARTING. Starting is risky and who knows what might happen? The reality is we cannot learn till we pay attention, and we do not pay attention till we start. Got that? OK, so START NOW with your imperfect non-comprehensive requirements. It’s going to be (perfectly) OK.
OK, OK we need to know what to build. I agree. Let’s also agree that it is unreasonable to expect everyone to know exactly what they want, 100%, at the start of the process. We focus on contracts instead of [Customer Collaboration] because this stuff is hard. So, we medicate with the contract. It gives a sense of control, see? That stops the pain of dealing with what is in fact an uncontrollable, increasing complex, high-change world.
Following a Plan
“Planning” usually shows up as “prediction-in-drag”: in effect, a wild-ass guess masquerading as planning. If prediction is so very easy, why isn’t everyone a stock market winner? See it? Prediction is difficult… and way over-rated. Plans are great and we need a direction … and a general way to move in that direction. But let’s not pretend we can predict very much at all. Instead, let’s [Respond to Change]. Ouch, that hurts because I might have to change my beliefs to address any really unusual changes. I might have to re-factor my model of reality.
That’s a whole lot of hard work, making edits to what I currently believe.
Jim and Michele McCarthy are the authors of SOFTWARE FOR YOUR HEAD, a book about structuring essential interactions inside great teams. There is one piece of this book, the chapter on the FarVision Protocol, which is very interesting.
It is as follows:
You work hard, burn out, and wonder why you bother.
You always play a role in creating the future, whether you choose to manage that role or not. Perhaps it is true of you that you can see no greater purpose to your work than supplying your own material needs and those of your company. Without purpose, you have a random effect on the future. That is, the world that results from your efforts is an accidental world.
Your team’s FarVision must answer this question:
What kind of world are you building?
The initial answers to this question are not always satisfying, because you don’t usually think of your daily activities as world building. When suddenly faced with such a question, you feel unprepared. You might avoid a direct answer. You might ask for clarification of the question. You might try to talk away the emptiness of your preliminary answer. Regardless of the response triggered by this query, there is real value in asking and answering the question, because it focuses the mind on the larger opportunities available.
If you are unable to directly and unself-consciously answer this question, you may want to examine why you don’t see the significance of your daily grind. Of course, the question of what kind of world you are building makes no sense at all unless you accept the implication that you are, in fact, building a world. Most of the time, of course, you may not consciously engage in the task of world building.
Nevertheless, your engagement in world building is a simple truth. You have beliefs. Every day you act on those beliefs. Your actions have external effects, and ultimately they cause your beliefs to materialize in the world. In essence, you change the world to look more like your beliefs. You build a world.
If you really are building a world, and if you are doing so unconsciously, you literally don’t know what you are doing. While you might not identify your purpose as the creation of a world, having a larger motivating purpose gives you a frame of reference for choosing alternatives. It is difficult to see how you can truly meet your daily challenges unless you bring a sense of purpose to each moment. Maintaining a broader purpose seems a necessary precondition of enjoying the highest levels of personal integrity.
To have integrity, your intention, your words, and your actions must be aligned. If you know what kind of world someone is building, and you are building the same kind of world, then you can work together on this goal, with much less noise and wasted effort cluttering the environment between you.
Like other team qualities, team integrity is the aggregate of the personal integrities of each team member, enhanced or diminished however much by the effects of the interpersonal synergy. The aggregate level of integrity has a positive correlation with desirable results.
Without a central purpose, an individual or team finds it impossible to make enlightened choices. Each day you make many choices. Before doing so, you check the alternatives against your larger purpose and envision how the alternatives might play out in the world you want to create. Wise choices, those that promote your world’s completion at reduced cost or in nearer time frames, are maximally useful to your purpose.
Even without the context of a larger purpose, you still must select from alternatives. Without an organizing purpose, however, your choices will be made according to whim and spontaneous, sometimes bizarre, and usually inconsistent motives. Inefficiency, apathy, premature cynicism, and failure result when individuals or teams make product design decisions in this way. The Core, on the other hand, provides you with a purpose template: to build a world.
Individuals, teams, and institutions have found that the most challenging, useful, and satisfying task is world building.
Many worlds and many kinds of worlds are possible.
SOFTWARE FOR YOUR HEAD is a book. It’s available as a free PDF via the this link: Free PDF Book. The aim of the book is to focus your attention on techniques for structuring great interactions…in pursuit of creating great teams.
Don Blair is a Agile Coach and leader of Agile Boston. His endorsement, written to the Scrum group on LinkedIn, appears below:
Recommendation: Dan Mezick for Scrum Alliance Board of Directors
I’d like to give my full recommendation for Dan Mezick for board member for the Scrum Alliance. As member of the Agile Boston User Group, I have worked with Dan for several years. In that time, I have come to appreciate his high energy, his ethics, and his passion for strengthening those around him. As an agile coach, I have seen him transform organizations from lethargy to the joyful pursuit of producing great results. As a community organizer, I have seen him work tirelessly to figure out how to make the community stronger and more engaged. As a Member of the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors, I have no doubt that he would strengthen the organization, ensuring that it remained an organization we would all be proud to belong to. Members of the Scrum Alliance can vote for Dan as a member of the board of Directors.