The Chris Matts Interview (Part 01)

InfoQ interviews: Chris Matts

Chris Matts

Chris Matts is a very interesting member of the Agile community, and is based in the UK.

First, Chris is a proponent of ‘real options’ analysis, which is a quantitative method of decision making under uncertainty. His ideas on using real options in Agile practice appear on InfoQ. The first InfoQ article is “Real Options Underlie Agile Practice” and the second article is “Lean + Real Options = [Reduced Complexity]

Second, Chris seems to know and connect everyone in the Agile community.

Lastly and of some import: he is a truly prolific writer of provocative, in-depth commentary on many InfoQ articles.

Chris’ ideas on real options, the Agile Manifesto and more can be found at his blog: www.decision-coach.com.

Note: Chris collaborates actively with Olav Maassen to create the total content found at www.decision-coach.com.

Olav Maassen

OK Chris…what is the one thing you want the Agile community to know? Be specific and detailed.

I want the the Agile community to know that the community is in fact a learning machine….. and it is broken. If something is not done to fix it, it will only last another couple of years before it fragments and something else will rise to replace it.

I recently wrote a blog post where I state the Agile Manifesto is actually a call to arms to create a software learning community. This is not a recent view of Agile although it is a recent reflection on the manifesto.

So the worldwide Agile community started out as a “learning machine”?

Yes. I was lucky enough to attend the first two Agile Development Conferences in Salt Lake City. They were amazing learning experiences; I learned so much. In fact the first discussion on Real Options took place in an open space with a small group that included Steve Freeman, Eric Evans and Rebecca Wirfs-Brock. It was great to discuss my half-formed thoughts with a band of great minds who gave me a great deal to think about.

It was like a bunch of kids exchanging baseball cards, except instead of cards, they were exchanging ideas. The crowd was so confident in their abilities that they were able to take on the ideas and try them out, feeding the experience back through blogs and written experience reports.

Did you go to Denver in 2005?

I skipped Denver but to Agile 2006 in Minneapolis. What I saw dismayed me greatly. Bil Kleb ran an open space on “Cognition, Learning and the Scientific Method”. I presented my two favorite models, Kolb’s Model of Learning and the Conscious-Competence model to the group. I then mapped them to the Agile Community. Helen Sharp said something like “Oh my Goodness, Agile is a Learning Machine”. Unfortunately some of the behaviors I saw in Minneapolis worried me.

Which behaviors?

The world had changed since 2004 in Salt Lake City. The APLN had created the declaration of incoherence (which Tom Lister famously lampooned at the APLN summit). A leadership manifesto that famously omits the word “listen”. Agile was starting to become commercially successful…

..And?

…and, a lot of the great conversations that happened in Salt Lake City were no longer happening.

The commercial aspects meant that the “elders” of the community were sensibly focusing on generating business. People were just too busy to talk. We had discussions in the bar but open space was dying. People were starting to claim “thought leadership” in areas and unfortunately there wasn’t much listening. After all, how can you be a leader if you are listening to others?

What was the impact?

The impact of this is that experienced practitioners started to stay away from the conference. They now flit in and out but unless they need to be at the conference for commercial reasons, the people who go to learn, attend once or twice and then stop turning up. So the experienced practitioners are starting to stay away. I know a number of people who cannot be bothered to attend anymore because “there is nothing interesting happening in the Agile space”. The people who are confident enough to try new ideas are staying away.

In summary, the learning is slowing down and will stop…. or rather, find a new home. I realized that the reason I come to the Agile 200x conference is to meet up with friends… a holiday rather than training. Realizing that, I’ve decided to spend the week in which I would have been at Agile2010 with my family and friends on a beach somewhere.

Are you saying the Agile Alliance conference is less important, not just to you …but to everyone?

Meeting new people is always a huge pleasure at the Agile200x conference. The Agile Alliance has a simple task ahead. To create a conference that satisfies the commercial aspects of the Agile Community but also supports an on-going software learning machine. There is no “O” in “Agile”, but there is an “A”. The conference should be about “AND” rather than “OR”. Applying agile principles might help.


Why are you so passionate about this “learning machine” topic?

Software development is one of the most important industries of the 21st century. To date, it has been plagued by theory and opinion of academic thinkers who have taken us down dead end after dead end.

The Agile Learning Machine started out as an alternative that promoted practices that ACTUALLY WORK! Unfortunately since then we have seen quite a bit of theory and untested ideas make it into the mainstream as “thought leaders” come up with new innovations to show they are still at the cutting edge.

I earn my living in software development. I use Agile tools to make my life easier. They have made my life a lot easier. I would like to see the continuation of more ideas. Agile is not a destination, it a journey. As someone at Agile2008 said “Agile is a personal commitment to change as well as a corporate commitment to change”. ( I wish I could attribute the statement ).

What’s up with this comic book you put together on real options?

The “Real Options at Agile 2009” is not about project management or business analysis. It is manual for how to set up a group learning machine or a “distributed cognition system” as I refer to it. 😉

The Real Options at Agile2009 comic book.
If there is one thing in the world you can make happen, what is it and why?

I would like the world to understand that we stand on the eve of a glorious age. An age where everyone on the planet has access to food and information. A world where the restraint is not capital, but rather where the limit is our imagination.

A world where everyone has options, real options. 😉

Watch for Part 2 of the Chris Matts interview. It covers “early commitments”, choice, group-level decision-making, why Chris comments on InfoQ articles so frequently, and more.

Part 02 is here.

About the Author

Dan Mezick is an Agile coach and trainer focused on Scrum. He’s a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009 and an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010. Dan’s company provides Scrum training and Agile coaching, counsel and guidance to executives, managers and teams. Learn more about Dan here.

The Chris Matts Interview (Part 02)

InfoQ interviews: Chris Matt

Chris Matts

Chris Matts is a very interesting member of the Agile community, and is based in the UK.

First, Chris is a proponent of ‘real options’ analysis, which is a quantitative method of decision making under uncertainty. His ideas on using real options in Agile practice appear on InfoQ. The first InfoQ article is “Real Options Underlie Agile Practice” and the second article is “Lean + Real Options = [Reduced Complexity]

Second, Chris seems to know and connect everyone in the Agile community.

Lastly and of some import: he is a truly prolific writer of provocative, in-depth commentary on many InfoQ articles.

Chris’ ideas on real options, the Agile Manifesto and more can be found at his blog: www.decision-coach.com.

Note: Chris collaborates actively with Olav Maassen to create the total content found at www.decision-coach.com.

Olav Maassen

NOTE: Part 01 is here
Chris, you talk quite a bit about “do not commit early unless you know why”…..can you explain this phrase?

Real Options are really about focusing on the timing of commitments. To achieve a goal, there are many ways to achieve the goal, each of these different ways is an option, a “real option”. And each option has an ‘expiration date and time’, a time after which it is no longer available as an option. In the real world, each option also has an ‘expiry condition’.

How about a very quick real-world example of this?

Imagine you are a building contractor with four builders. You are holding a party and are you want to build a swimming pool. It takes one person four weeks to build it, two people take two weeks and four people will take a week. The option to build it with one person expires four weeks before the party. The option to build it with two people expires two weeks before the party and four can build it in one week.

By deferring the commitment until a week before, you can decide not to build the pool if the party is cancelled up until a week before. However there is now the risk that one of the builders will be ill and you are not ready in time for the party. You have three options for building the pool, each expires at a different point with a different risk profile.

“Do not commit early unless you know why” means you do not chose in advance which of the three options to chose….. unless you have a reason which could be anything. For example, your four builders have nothing better to do this week. By starting now, they complete a task that you know you want doing and it means they will be free in the future when they may be needed.

This means the default behavior should not be to start now or as soon as possible. Instead, know when you should start. Too often we see people make emotional commitments and stick to their decisions even though we know there are now better options.

If you have the information you need to remove the uncertainty from the decision process, then you can commit early. For example, you decide to build a pool regardless of the party and you know your builders are free for the next two weeks and are going to be busy after that, then build the pool early.
You talk alot about ‘real options’ … to exercise an option, it is imperative that you know you have a choice. Is your message about real options (“choice”) resonating in the Agile community? If so, why so? If not, why not?

There are a growing number of individuals who use real options thinking. Its still a very small part of the Agile Community though. I can always tell when someone “gets it” when they apply it outside of IT. One friend used real options to organise their wedding. Another used real options to chose a school for their son. I love it to hear these kind of stories.

I think there are a number of reasons why real options have not really caught on.

1.People are put off by the name and think it is about clever financial mathematics. There is no maths in it at all.

2. A lot of people are disappointed when they come to a real options session. I think they expect fancy maths and stuff and when its not there. As a result, they dismiss.

3.Real Options is quite subtle. There are a few practices but mainly its a set of principles that you apply according to your situation. I tend to avoid speaking about the practices as I want people to think about the general principles rather than focus on the practices.

4.Real options are as much about psychology as anything. The way we make decisions is probably one of the core aspects of our personalities. It has a big impact on our behaviour. Asking people to change how they make decisions after an hour long presentation or after reading an article is a big ask.

5.People like certainty. They really dislike uncertainty. Real options asks them to embrace something they dislike.

6.Most importantly I am appallingly bad at explaining real options. I was working with them for a couple of years before I really discussed them much with anyone else. As such, the way I think about them is hard to explain. In other words, it is my fault they are not better understood.

What is the link between real options and group-level decision making? Isn’t choice in software development decision-making simply a capital allocation problem, where the capital is ‘developer attention and effort’ ??

Real Options are an information hungry decision process. A group of people have more information than an individual. As such, groups should be better at making decisions than an individuals as long as their goal is to make the best decision for the group rather than making the best decision for their personal benefit.

I use real options for the business investment decision process. However there are lots of decisions to be made on an it project. Architecture, choice of development tools, choice of developers. The trick is to get everyone on the team to bring the right information into the group in a timely manner. When we start talking about the timing of releasing information, or of withholding information, we are in the realms of game theory.

If everyone human being on the planet above age 18 has perfect understanding of real options as a tool for decision making, what does that world look like? Is it better or worse– and why?

Diversity is another way of saying options. Prejudice goes against the principle of making commitments early. We value options, so we would value people who are different. In effect, we would see an end to prejudice and war. I think the world would end up looking a bit like the world of “Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson.

I think society is moving in that direction already.
What do you get out of your prolific InfoQ commenting habit? You are committing to an option early (you can comment on anything on InfoQ any time), so you must know why. Tell us why.

I get two things out of commenting on articles. One is a discussion about the subject which may reveal further information. The other is to signal to the readers that sometimes the article is discussing a subject that is not as cut and dried as people think. Occasionally you read an article and the tone indicates that the material is “best practice” or generally agreed. In reality the article is an opinion piece and a comment is a good way of indicating their are other opinions.

I think that most people read Infoq articles in the day or two after they are published. Although the articles stay around forever, most of the attention occurs in the first few days. Therefore if you want the best chance for a good discussion of the article you need to get in early otherwise people will not see your comment.

Lots of people know you and you seem to introduce people constantly at these conferences. Sometimes you challenge people in print and in conversation. One thing that is interesting is how you are interested in influencing the leaders by challenging their thinking respectfully from time to time with well-formed arguments. Why do you exercise this option?

The leaders of the Agile community are a constraint to learning. By removing them as constraints, learning will flow more easily. People will find the real leaders of Agile, the people doing it every day for a living who are struggling to solve their problems. Also, the close followers of leaders are voracious learners with the right risk attitude to try new ideas.

I’m not really interested in the queen, but rather in stealing her army of ants.

About the Author

Dan Mezick is an Agile coach and trainer focused on Scrum. He’s a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009 and an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010. Dan’s company provides Scrum training and Agile coaching, counsel and guidance to executives, managers and teams. Learn more about Dan here.

InfoQ News: Agile Coaching gains traction

Agile Coaching has emerged as an essential role found in and around agile teams. New teams need basics, competent teams sometimes get lost, and great teams want to get better. Coaching has arrived.

For examples of evidence, consider the following:

1.Agile 2009 had a Coaching ‘Stage’ which is a conference track.

2. Classes exist now on coaching techniques and coaching agile teams.

2. Earlier, Rachel Davies published her book Agile Coaching (Pragmatic Press).

3. The Scrum Alliance has a relatively new, higher-level credential called Certified Agile Coach.

And finally, Addison-Wesley is now shipping the book Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins.

InfoQ caught up with author Lyssa Adkins and asked a few question about agile coaching.

Here are the answers:

Your book Coaching Agile Teams is now complete, and in print. How does that make you feel?

I am thrilled beyond belief. I never set out to be an author, it just “happened” to me. It seemed like everyone I knew was saying things to me like, “That’s good! You gotta write that down” and “You should write a book.” So I did. And now I am so pleased to see the results of my agile coaching experience in book form and being used by so many coaches to “up their game” and help their agile teams excel.

What is the one thing you want the Agile community to really, really know? Be specific and detailed.

I am all about helping the next generation of excellent agile coaches to emerge. Why? I believe many organizations have used agile “in the small” so far, as an alternate project management methodology. In its fullest expression, agile is far more powerful than that. Sure, it works for pumping out the same work faster and yet there’s a sense that there’s more to get. And there is.

Excellent agile coaches know how to help their teams get more and move from the mechanical application of agile into a world where teams deepen their experience of agile practices and principles and then go further, to take up their deliberate and joyful pursuit of high performance. All of this made possible because they have an excellent agile coach as their guide. This is what I want the agile community to really, really know.

Why are you so passionate about agile coaching?

I have seen agile used to great effect and I have seen it used poorly and even as a weapon. When it’s used poorly or for ill, I see a wastefulness that I cannot abide. When people tell me they hate agile because it makes them work overtime and squelches their ability to innovate, I cringe and cry, “It doesn’t have to be that way! In fact, agile is set up to give you a work/life mix that works for you and is supposed to unleash your innovative mind.” I believe one of the key differences in a team with a negative experience like this and one with agile in full effectiveness and liveliness is the skill and ability of the agile coach. And, it just so happens that agile coaching is where my personal agile journey occurs, so the need and the personal story merge. That’s why I am laser focused on helping coaches coach agile teams.

The book Lyssa wrote, Coaching Agile Teams , ships to bookstores any day now. The book includes chapters on “Coach as Teacher” and “Coach as Facilitator”. These are particularly interesting chapters, as they are about techniques for accelerating team learning. The chapter “Navigating Conflict” is especially useful for coaches new to facilitating communication between people when substantial differences exist between them. Differences are the raw ingredients of group learning, and this chapter provides solid guidance on navigating these differences such that the team is the winner.

Coaching is part teacher, part mentor, part facilitator, part mediator and part problem solver. The role of agile coach is an interesting and demanding one. Being coached is now established as a valuable practice, and agile coaching is now a profession.

Stay tuned for the upcoming interview of Coaching Agile Teams author Lyssa Adkins, for more detail on the essential role of coaching on agile teams.

About the Author

Dan Mezick is an Agile coach and trainer focused on Scrum. He’s a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009 and an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010. Dan’s company provides Scrum training and Agile coaching, counsel and guidance to executives, managers and teams. Learn more about Dan here.

Agile Certification Arrives

The Agile community has an all-new set of certification credentials.

The new International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) is led by three well known agile community members. The first is Alistair Cockburn is a signatory of the Agile Manifest. The second is David Hussman is a well-known agile coach and the recipient of the Agile2009 Gordon Pask Award. the third, Ahmed Sidky, is a book author and also a past organizer of the Agile Alliance 2009 conference.

These three have created an all-new credentialing body, the International Consortium for Agile, found at www.ICAgile.org.

The stated mission and vision of ICAgile is:

<quote>

…to educate and equip the global academic and industrial IT community with the mindset, practices and tools for creating high performance, lean and agile individuals, teams and organizations.

….ICAgile’s vision is to become the highest recognizable name worldwide for all those seeking to learn about Agile. We will keep working till ICAgile certificates are viewed as the most credible and reliable source of Agile education in the world.

</quote>

ICAgile has wide-scale ambitions, including the issuance of several certifications and at least one conference per year. According to the ICAgile web site, ICAgile plans to run conferences. Those seeking higher-end ICAgile credentials such as Instructor or Expert must attend a conference to comply with the “live testing” requirements of these ICAgile certifications.

Credentials that ICAgile intends to issue (with the help of certified trainers) includes:

1. ICAgile Professional

2. ICAgile Expert

3. ICAgile Fellow

4. ICAgile Instructor

The ICAgile program appears to generate considerable demand for the contemplated annual conference by requiring those seeking credentials to attend to get certified. For example, to gain the ICAgile Expert credential, its is manditory to develop products in teams, at an ICAgile conference, while being rated and graded by ICAgile Experts and Fellows. Those seeking certification as trainers must deliver sessions at the conference; delivery of these sessions is a requirement of trainer certification.

The IC Agile Instructor program states:

<quote>

To ensure that applicants can teach fundamentals of Agile there is no better test than to actually observe them teaching. During the ICAgile Conference all the applicants that passed their phone interview will undergo a face-to-face interview with a group of ICAgile Fellows and Experts. Also they will be given a slot at the conference to teach a short topic of their choice to a group of attendees. The feedback of both the attendees and the ICAgile Fellows and Experts will determine whether the candidate will become an Authorized Instructor or not.

</quote>

ICAgile’s Certification Roadmap

The basic credential is the ICAgile Professional certification. According the the ICAgile web site, for applicants the first step is a ‘fundamentals’ phase; attending a course of about 5 days to get the level-setting basics. The next step is a ‘Focus’ track and attendance in a Focus class. Upon completion of these 2 steps including an assessment, the student may be certified as a ICAgile Professional.

The next step is to reach the level of ICAgile Expert. This requires conference attendance. The web site states the following for reaching Expert status:

<quote>

The … final phase is the Certification Phase. This phase is completed through 2 steps. The first is a phone interview with ICAgile Experts or Fellows that are specialized in the track you just finished. If the student passes the phone interview then they are ready for the final step to become an ICAgile Expert – the Hands-on Immersion. The hands-on immersion involves students from each track getting together and creating a cross functional team. At the ICAgile conference, this cross-functional team will have access to a real client and then in 4 hours the team is expected to produce a working slice of the system. The team will be observed by a set of ICAgile fellows who will later discuss with each team member their points of strength and weakness.

</quote>

To reach the level of ICAgile Fellow, one must first become an ICAgile Expert to be considered. The entire ICAgile Roadmap is clearly described.

The entry point for all applicants is to attend certified training: to gain the basic ICAgile Professional credential, applicants must attend certified ICAgile classes. The ICAgile program includes a fair amount of latitude in how certified instructors create course material; however any custom course material developed by the instructor must deliver on the stated ICAgile learning objectives, and be approved by ICAgile itself.

What is interesting is the position on the Agile Alliance on this matter. According to the Agile Alliance, for certification to be effective it must be certifying actual experience:

<quote>

A skill is not as simple to acquire as knowledge: the learner has to perform the skill badly, recover from mistakes, do it a bit better, and keep repeating the whole process. Especially for the interrelated and interpersonal skills required of Agile software development, much of the learning has to take place on real projects. It is that learning that a certification should vouch for.

Vouching for someone else’s skill requires close observation or questioning by someone already possessing it. For anything other than uninterestingly simple skills, that’s a lot of work–which means it’s expensive. Therefore, the only skills worth formally vouching for are those that require substantial effort to learn.

</quote>

The ICAgile certification details found at www.ICAgile.org make for a very interesting read, and the program, while complex, is well thought-out. What happens next remains to be seen. Certification is now front-and-center and the Agile community as a whole can now choose to aquire certifications from many credentialing bodies, including (but not limited to) Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org and now, IC Agile. InfoQ is monitoring the certification scene closely and is planning more articles on the subject. A recent InfoQ story Reactions to the First Certified Scrum Developer Course has generated a high volume of blog posts, comments and controversy. There is clearly a strong interest in where certification is going in the Agile marketplace.

Stay tuned for more certification articles and subsquent news stories from InfoQ!

About the Author

Dan Mezick is an Agile coach and trainer focused on Scrum. He’s a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009 and an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010. Dan’s company provides Scrum training and Agile coaching, counsel and guidance to executives, managers and teams. Learn more about Dan here.

The “Command and Control” Military Gets Agile

Agility is a term that is gaining traction in some very unusual places. The military is suddenly taking Agility (big “A”) very seriously. The military defines Agility as “the ability to successfully respond to change”. The term “command and control” is used so commonly in the military that is abbreviated to “C2” in common usage. There is also a C2 Journal, a journal all about Command and Control. The C2 Journal has many articles on Agility recently.

Earlier this year, in March, a “Precis” was published by the Department of Defense Command and Control Research Center entitled The Agility Imperative. This document describes Agility as related to security and war. What is striking is the clarity of the language relative to software agility. Consider the following:

“Agile people conceive and approach the world and their assigned tasks differently from those who are less agile. In general, agile people have a propensity to seek improvements, are more willing to consider information that is at odds with preconceived notions, and are more willing to be different and take risks. These basic characteristics can be enhanced or suppressed by education, training, and culture. Unfortunately, many organizations, both large and small, suppress agility-enabling characteristics.”

The document from the C2 Research Center has much to say about people. For example:

“Often it is productive to focus on simply removing the obstacles to Agility. Just as an open and inquisitive mindset is an enabler of Agility, a closed and complacent mindset is an impediment.”

Those seeking clarity on the “command and control” vs. “Agile” debate are likely to enjoy examining the content at the Department of Defense Command and Control Research Center . For example, at this site, you can download a slide deck devoted to defining Agility in military terms. What is striking here is the near 100% overlap with descriptions of software development agility. Apparently, software development and war have much complexity in common: according to the Precis entitled “The Agile Emperative”, Agility applies anywhere there is a “Complex Endeavor” to deal with.

Does this sound familiar?

Information, Interactions, & Decisions in C2

Requisite Agility

Some definitions and concepts that apply to the military use of Agility might be useful in the software development world, especially as applied to large IT shops that are organized around the waterfall approach. One such concept is Requisite Agility. The paper The Agility Imperative defines “Requisite Agility” as a balanced level of Agility, a capital-allocation concept not generally discussed in the agile literature when addressing the mixing agile and traditional approaches.

“Agility is not an end unto itself. Therefore, Agility is not a capability that should be maximized. The capability to be agile (Agility Potential) and actual reactions to changes (Manifest Agility) both involve costs. These costs can be justified only by the nature of the challenge. The appropriate amount of Agility to seek, Requisite Agility, is a level that balances the costs of attaining it with the consequences of not having it, given the situation. Thus, Requisite Agility, not
unlimited Agility, should be the goal.”

Another interesting paper found inside the C2 Journal on the C2 Research Center site, Agility, Focus, and Convergence: The Future of Command and Control makes some points that can be applied directly to software development Agility:

“The word “control” is inappropriate…because it sends the wrong message. It implies that complex situations can be controlled…push the right levers; take this action or that; solve this problem. But this is a dangerous oversimplification. The best that one can do is to create a set of conditions that improves the probability that a desirable (rather than an undesirable) outcome will occur and to change the conditions when what is expected is not occurring. Control is in fact an emergent property, not an option to be selected.”

This C2 article goes on to say that ‘command and control’ is such a loaded term in the military that it limits perceptions and learning. Influential writers inside the military are working to change that language. The new suggested language uses Scrum values (Focus) and terminology from complexity science:

“Focus & Convergence is the term … to replace Command and Control…it captures the essential aspects of command
and control and can easily be understood by individuals without a prior knowledge of or experience with command and control. Furthermore, these words do not carry any preconceived notions of how to achieve these objectives. Focus as a replacement for command speaks directly to what command is meant to accomplish while being agnostic with respect to the existence of someone in charge or particular lines of authority. Similarly, convergence speaks directly to what control (the verb) is meant to achieve without asserting that control as a verb is possible or desirable. The combined term, Focus & Convergence, speaks to the existence of a set of dynamic interactions between the two functions.”

Another article on Agility in the C2 Journal, Agile Networking in Command and Control, focuses on how to incorporate “Agile C2” into modern military operations.

“Agile C2 … refers to the capability of a force to adjust to and manage changing operational conditions. Agility is seen as including robustness, resilience, responsiveness, flexibility, innovation, and adaptation in order to be effective…In order to achieve agility, it is required to have almost instant information sharing using robust networks, “self organizing” social structures for high responsiveness and fast feedback, and understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.”

In project management, we debate the relative merits of traditional Project Managers and Agile approaches. Here the military is doing something similiar, referring to “Agile Command and Control” while we refer to “Agile Project Managers”. It is interesting to note the parallels, especially in light of heated discussions on the PMI-Agile Yahoo Group about the validity of “Agile Project Manager” hybrids which incorporate aspects of waterfall and agile approaches.

The military is directly studying this dynamic of mixing traditional C2 with Agility. Consider this quote from The Agility Imperative:

“…understanding the consequences of the mixture of agile and non-agile people, in a variety of circumstances, is important. This is a topic being currently explored by DoD’s CCRP and its DoD and international partners.”

Those interested in articles and papers that address military Agility can search the C2 Research Center and quickly find resources such as papers, slide decks and web pages that cover Agility relative to traditional C2. The C2 Research Center is the place on the web where the best military minds are studying Agility relative to “Command and Control”. As such, it may be a great resource for those seeking to bridge Agility and traditional approaches.

Guys. Seriously.

The most amazing paper (perhaps ever) on Agility is referenced in this thread, have you seen it?

It lives at the Dept of Defense Command and Control Research Center.

http://www.dodccrp.org/files/Alberts_Agility_Imperative_Precis.pdf

Slide Deck defining Agility

http://www.google.com/custom?q=Agility&sa=Google+Search&domains=www.dodccrp.org&sitesearch=www.dodccrp.org

http://www.dodccrp.org/files/IC2J_v1n1_01_Alberts.pdf

The Future of Command and Control (C2 Journal)

The future of command and control is not Command and Control. In
fact, the term Command and Control has become a significant impediment
to progress.

“…our organizational structures and processes and, indeed, our approaches
to management, governance, and command and control, need to be re-examined
in the light of their ability to deal with an appropriate level of unpredictability.
Changes in our structures and approaches will be necessary to make them better
able to deal with the unfamiliar and unexpected.”

“Agility is the ability to successfully cope with change.”

BART Checkup for Teams

This note provides a set of diagnostic questions with respect to observed BART (boundary, authority, role and task) properties on an agile team. I believe if enough agile/Scrum community leaders and members pay attention to BART analysis, the agile/Scrum work is advanced.

Specifically, BART analysis can help discover:

1. Important differences between stated and actual ground rules used by the team;

2. informal roles;

3. Informally authorized roles and tasks;

4. How people on the team are “taking up” formal and informal roles and associated tasks.

Canonical Scrum per the Schwaber-Beedle book and actual working Scrum implementations are great places to start with BART analysis.

Original date of note: 10/25/2009 by Dan Mezick

BART Checkup

BART properties populate typical “working agreements” that are created on agile teams over time. The following diagnostic questions help to quantify what is going on within a team.

Note that BART properties in Scrum are well defined as compared to typical organizational context; that is, typical company culture.

Teams deal in the BART properties of the organizational culture, the BART properties of Scrum and the emergent BART properties they add to form cohesive team culture in the absence of clear ground rules for a given role or task.

Teams for example may choose (via “working agreements”) to institute a working agreement about daily start time, perhaps allowing a flex-time scenario on the team. In terms of BART, this means team members are formally authorized by the team to choose their start time within agreed-upon boundaries.

ROLES

o Are all formally defined roles in Scrum taken up by specific individuals? Are all formal roles taken up appropriately? That is, well within role boundaries, but also taken up completely?

o Do any informal roles exist? If so what are they? Does the existence of any these informal roles impede the work of the team? If so how? Who is occupying any informal roles detected?

o Is any one person taking up more than one formally defined role in the Scrum implementation?

o If the team is an intermediate-to-advanced user of Scrum and for some reason has added additional roles, are these roles completely described?

TASKS
o Do all the team members exhibit great clarity and a shared mental model of the stated task of the team?

o Is there a person or persons available to the team who can distinguish all the different tasks?

o Does the team collectively believe that even repetitive tasks are unique as of the moment they are executed?

§ This means the team believes that every moment is unique, regardless of the seemingly familiar task at hand now.

AUTHORITY

o Is authority formally defined for each defined role?

§ If so, is formal authority:
· Clearly specified?
· Understood by all?
· Adhered to?

o Do team members:

§ Take up formal authority appropriately?

§ Do they work within the defined boundaries of the formal authority granted?

§ For defined tasks with unclear authority boundaries, how do team members define authority boundaries in the absence of formal definitions?

o What authority if any is observed associated with any informal roles that exist?

BOUNDARIES

o Are boundaries on roles, tasks and related authority:

§ Clearly specified?

§ Agreed upon?

§ Adhered to?

Fuzzy, ambiguous BART property definitions tend to encourage unconscious behavior at the group level.

Clear, well-defined BART property definitions tends to encourage the conscious attention of the team toward the stated task; i.e. producing “working software”.

Well-formed BART combined with Scrum’s ‘cadence’ via time-bounded Sprints (iterations) tends to entrain team-level production at the expense of team-level waste.

Advanced users of Scrum may choose to alter certain BART properties of Scrum. For example some may choose to add a ceremony, an artifact or a role to canonical Scrum.

That can be tricky. BART analysis can be useful for noticing how any tailoring of Scrum is affecting your effort at the Team level.

***

About the Author

Dan Mezick: An expert on teams and a trusted adviser to CxO-level executives worldwide, Dan consults on enterprise-wide culture change, implementing Scrum, and the often difficult adoption of authentic Lean principles.

He creates and teaches specific, useful tools and techniques for facilitating successful enterprise-wide adoption of agile and Scrum. Dan’s articles on teams and organizational dynamics appear on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org, and AgileJournal.com. Learn more about Dan Mezick’s agile writing here.

He’s the organizer of the Agile Boston user group and a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009, an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010 and a news reporter for InfoQ.com

Reach Dan at:

dan.mezick [at] newtechusa [dotcom]

You can learn much more detail about Dan via his Agile Coaching page here.

Group Relations Theory and Practice

This is a note regarding my strong interest in focusing the attention of the Agile/Scrum community towards Group Relations theory, practice and conferences.

I believe if enough agile/Scrum leaders simply do some preparation and actually attend a Group Relations conference, we can advance the agile/Scrum work. This is achieveable by raising awareness of how we act and react in often completely unconscious ways as we participate in group life.

Original date of note: 10/24/2009 by Dan Mezick

 

Application

Group relations work is mostly focused on issues of boundary, authority, role and task. My experience is that GR work in a GR conference setting is immediately applicable after you do it. GR work is concerned with depth psychology at the level of ‘group’ or ‘system’. GR work is not therapy but rather “here and now” experiential learning.

For example, I learn at a GR conference that people have an ‘orientation’ or ‘valence’ regarding authority. Some seek it …while others seek to assist the current authority. Still others have a ‘adversarial valence’ towards current authority.

At Agile2009, I meet Tobias Meyer and we discuss this. He reflects out loud and admits freely that he has a adversarial orientation towards authority. For him, questioning authority is comfortable and very natural.

Today I examine the blog post by Jean Tabaka entitled Escalation is Killing Agile. I notice Tobias Mayer makes a comment on this blog post. I notice also that previous to this, Tobias develops into a de facto authority, over time, in the Scrum community. Now the tables are turned– his noted authority in the Scrum community is now attractive as a big target for other individuals to shoot at.

Other examples abound, such as ….

“…What is it about discourse in the agile community? This year, I’ve encountered three examples of pushing back against incivility, blaming, and scornful, abusive language. -Diana Larsen, Agile Alliance newsletter, 10/19/2009

We can argue what precise factors or forces are at work. One thing is certain: we are at or near a defining moment. Old ways of thinking and doing as a community no longer apply.

Everyone Loses

We are rapidly reaching a state where a “lose-lose” outcome is a very real reality within our community. We are at a defining moment. We can choose to devolve into an unstable state where we spin out of control and implode. End of cohesive community: Everyone loses. This very real possibility is the result of a collectively held “zero-sum game” mental model that says “for me to win you must lose”. Do we all want to lose?? OK, let’s all keep doing that !!

A better result is to TRANSFORM into a new thing. That is what this community is trying to do, now.

To get there, we need a collectively held “win-win” mental model that says “I am invested in this community and if it self-destructs, I lose in a huge way. Therefore, for me to NOT lose, we ALL must win– by stabilizing this downward spiral right NOW.”

My current belief is that we all collectively do not YET realize that we need to slog though this defining moment to emerge on the other side as a new and different thing….a TRANSFORMED thing ….or self destruct at the level of “group”.

We can slog through this. There is a way.

I know this is Jean’s intention, as she says directly:

1. When everyone is trying to win, the system suffers. Anyone’s “win” is nobody’s win; and anyone’s “loss” is everyone’s loss.

2. I’m done with all the distractions that don’t feed my growth. I’ve lost the ability to abide behaviors that don’t give evidence of what was written with conviction in the Agile Manifesto.

3. My personal commitment is to seek those interested in creating more and more insights about how we can grow and learn.

Jean is a leader.

Enter Group Relations theory and practice

In the absence of clear ground rules, people in a situation must create or re-create ground rules. This occurs by testing the fuzzy and ill-defined Boundary, Authority, Role and Task definitions in a messy system. That is part of what is going on here and now and it is full of waste and more importantly, it is destabilizing.

For an example of how this works, think about Scrum. Scrum has clear BART definitions. This dramatically reduces ambiguity for all involved, and frees up precious team energy– energy that might be wasted by the testing and discovery of boundaries, authority, roies and tasks.

Scrum is a boundary-centric container for work– by virtue of clear ground rules. Energy and focus can now be focused on the work, rather than wasteful boundary-discovery tasks. The clarity of Scrum’s BART definitions are designed to honor production at the expense of waste.

We are at a defining moment. Most of what is going on– with any acrimony in our community now– is completely unconscious, and is operating at the level of ‘system’. We are ALL participating, now.

Group relations work brings this reality into very sharp focus. As such, knowledge of GR theory and practice can help– alot.

My Intentions

My intention is to bring GR work to the attention of the Agile and Scrum community, such that the agile and Scrum work can advance.

Below is an email with links that I send, earlier, to agile and Scrum leaders this week. Please consider studying the Tavistock primer listed below, and attending a GR conference– such that you can gain valuable new insight and experience in groups.

I am in contact with Group Relations community leaders, see below. My current belief is that raising the ambient level of mastery of GR concepts has the potential to help us reverse this very unstable state we are now developing as a community. Please consider learning more about Group Relations theory and practice. Links appear below.

Sincerely,

Dan Mezick (bio/profile)

(email sent to agile/Scrum community leaders 10/22/2009…)

Hello,

I am writing you to bring Group Relations (GR) and the GR community to your attention. I send it because you are a leader in the agile community and I am eager to bring this topic to the attention of the community-at-large.

As you may know, GR events are ‘conferences’ where the psychology of groups is explored.

Each conference and 100% experiential and unique. There are many dotted lines to agile thinking, including: empiricism, group collaborative process, systems thinking, retrospectives.

GR work is interesting if you are looking for answers to how and why groups behave as they do. GR conferences and present-moment, “here and now” focused. The Tavistock primer listed below is useful for understanding the conference format.

I am providing links to key documents and web pages to help familiarize you with GR work. I hope you might consider attending a GR conference. These conferences span 3-4 days, and usually residential and held at a retreat location. I hope you might consider attending a GR conference. My own experience of GR work is as follows: GR conference attendance is some of the best leadership/follow-ship training ever.

At Agile2008 and 2009 I speak on Group Relations and related work from the GR community called BART (Boundary, Authority, Role and Task).

My 2008 and 2009 sessions on these topics are here:

http://submissions.agile2008.org/node/3483

http://agile2009.agilealliance.org/node/2154

http://www.agile2009.org/node/2153

In 2009, I help out with the [Manifesting Agility] stage, incorporating‘ Psychology and Cognition’. Going forward, I am eager to see group-level psychology and cognition play a MUCH more central role in the development of agile practice and knowledge. I hope sincerely that the Agile2010 conference has a Stage for [Group psychology and Cognition].

Here are some links to familiarize you with Group Relations work:

BART: Boundary, Authority, Role and Task

http://akri.affiniscape.com/associations/8689/files/BART_Green_Molenkamp.pdf

Group Relations FAQ

http://akriceinstitute.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=34

Tavistock Primer

http://www.nycgrouprelations.org/pdf/TaviPrimer.pdf

For my part, I am busy evangelizing Boundary, Authority, Role and Task (BART) concepts inside our community. I am speaking on BART at local PMI meetings and also the GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM event on 11/25 in Boston:

BART at the SNEC-PMI event

BART presentation link at SNEC-PMI

The GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM event 11/25/2009 Boston

http://www.newtechusa.com/agileboston/gtfs

My session on BART and Scrum:

http://www.newtechusa.com/agileboston/gtfs#Dan

I hope you might consider learning about GR and attending a GR conference. I am eager to see group-level cognition and psychology get more attention from our community. In particular, I am eager to see these topics get a formally authorized Stage at next year’s conference.

If we want to create a conference event dedicated to agile community members, this is possible. I have experience speaking to leaders in the GR community about this. Leigh Estabrook is the President of the AK Rice Institute and she is willing to set this up for us, if we can get 25 or more to attend. It can be in any USA city. Other leaders in the GR community are willing to create private conferences and otherwise accommodate similar requests we may make.

Let me know if this is of interest to you. I am very interested in attending such an agile-only GR conference.

I am eager to answer your questions, and I hope you enjoy the provided GR links and subject matter. GR conference calendar links to conferences appears below. Shoot me a call or email if I may be of assistance to you as you explore the Group Relations domain. See the links listed below.

Please forward this email to colleagues and friends, as I am sure I miss many people who likely have an interest in this subject matter.

Please note the GR conference coming up in Chicago area in April listed below. I have experience attending events under the authority of this conference director, Kathleen Cain, and I attest to the quality of the conferences she runs. Chicago in April is a good choice if it fits your schedule.

I welcome your questions on GR work as applied to Agile.

Best Regards,
Dan Mezick
Cell 203 915 7248

Group relations conferences (near term)

NYC- 11/13

http://akri.affiniscape.com/cde.cfm?event=249887

India- 12/14

http://akri.affiniscape.com/cde.cfm?event=274178

Boston- 1/22

http://akri.affiniscape.com/cde.cfm?event=279880

Chicago- April 22-25

A Group Relations Conference
*Leading in an Environment of Complexity, Transparency and Conflict/
Kathleen Cain, LCSW, Director
Mark Kiel, Psych.D., Associate Director

Where: The Cenacle – A Retreat Center, Chicago, Illinois

When: April 22 – 25, 2010

Sponsored by the Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and
Organizations and The Midwest Group Relations Center of the A.K. Rice
Institute

Contact Diane Denes, dianedenes1@gmail.com <mailto:dianedenes1@gmail.com>

Baltimore- June 29 (Annual International Conference)

http://akri.affiniscape.com/cde.cfm?event=279911

Overall Group relations community calendar

http://akri.affiniscape.com/calendar.cfm

List of AK Rice affiliate organizations USA and worldwide:

http://www.nycgrouprelations.org/affiliates.html

***

About the Author

Dan Mezick: An expert on teams and a trusted adviser to CxO-level executives worldwide, Dan consults on enterprise-wide culture change, implementing Scrum, and the often difficult adoption of authentic Lean principles.

He creates and teaches specific, useful tools and techniques for facilitating successful enterprise-wide adoption of agile and Scrum. Dan’s articles on teams and organizational dynamics appear on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org, and AgileJournal.com. Learn more about Dan Mezick’s agile writing here.

He’s the organizer of the Agile Boston user group and a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009, an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010 and a news reporter for InfoQ.com

Reach Dan at:

dan.mezick [at] newtechusa [dotcom]

You can learn much more detail about Dan via his Agile Coaching page here.