Zan’s Sprint Challenge 10/20/15: Practice Simplification to Improve Agility

It’s time for another Zan’s Challenge! These challenges are still to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills, or open your mind to new possibilities in Agile.

Today’s Challenge: Practice Simplification to Improve Agility

One of the core principles behind the Agile Manifesto is Simplicity:

Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

In order to succeed, we all must learn to simplify what we are doing. It is never enough to just attack all the tasks and problems we may be faced with each day. There just are not enough hours in the day. We have to simplify the work we do, ensuring we get what needs to be done, done.

Here are some tips for simplification:

  • Make a priority list: It’s important to know what is the most important thing to be done is. Figure out what must be done first.
  • Understand the goal: If you don’t know what the goal is, and why the goal is important, you won’t know what to simplify.
  • Check your status often: Once you start doing things in their order of priority, check in as you complete tasks and see if you have met the goal. Sometimes, you’ll find the goal actually met, and you won’t need some of the tasks you thought you did at first! Other times, you may need to alter your expected tasks once you have new information. Either way, eliminating unnecessary tasks leads to simplification.

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Challenges!

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Zan’s Challenge 10/6/15: Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

It’s time for another Zan’s Challenge! These challenges are still to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills, or open your mind to new possibilities in Agile.

Today’s Challenge: Identify your strengths and weaknesses

It’s important, when striving for personal and professional growth, to know your strengths and at least some weaknesses which you can work to address.  We’d all like to think we have no weaknesses, but that is never the case. We all have something we can work to be better at.

Here are some tips to identifying strengths and weaknesses:

  • A quick way to know how strong you are at something is to try to teach it to someone else. Your understanding will be tested in new and unique ways, and teachers often find they learn just as much as their students.
  • Another really simple way is to just do it, whatever ‘it’ may be. While you’re doing something, examine how you feel. If you’re happy with the activity, you’re more likely to be strong. If it is frustrating or disconcerting, that is a sign you may be weak in that area. This applies to lots of different activities.
  • Ask trusted colleagues for their honest opinions. Give your honest opinion in return. Sometimes people know you better than you know yourself, especially when it comes to weaknesses.

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Challenges!

Zan’s Challenge 9/21/15 – Push Your Boundaries

It’s time for another Zan’s Challenge! I’m doing away with the weekly format, and instead making new challenges every two weeks to fit closer to the most popular timebox for iterations, and to allow time to actually focus on one challenge before it changes. These challenges are still to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills, or open your mind to new possibilities in Agile.

The challenge: Push your boundaries.

It’s easy to live every day, doing the minimum of what needs to be done and never striving to improve. With Agile, however, we believe that constant tuning and adjusting are vital to remaining competitive, and that individuals should be motivated to create great projects. Some might say, “If you’re not getting better, you’re falling behind”. In that spirit, it’s important to push your boundaries and to be unsatisfied with maintaining the status quo.

So challenge yourself and your team to find new ways to become more efficient. It is not about working harder (unless you feel like you’re slacking off!). Find things that are slowing you down, and make efforts to rectify that. Eliminate wasteful processes and find ways to simplify your work. Set a personal growth goal, and strive to achieve that goal.

Most importantly: Don’t be satisfied with “Good Enough”. “Good Enough” does not exist when it comes to how we work. There is always something to be improved, somewhere.

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Challenges!

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Zan’s Weekly Challenge 9/9/15 – Examine Your Assumptions

It’s time once again for “Zan’s Weekly Challenge”! Each week, I will pose a challenge to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills or open your mind to new possibilities on your Agile journey.  I welcome you to post your feedback on this challenge as a comment on the blog, send me a tweet @zandterman, or any other way you see fit.  Due to the short week, this challenge will run through next week.

This week’s challenge: Examine your assumptions.

Everyone has biases. Our knowledge, skills, and past experiences color our perception of everything we take in.  Given our viewpoint, we then make assumptions without even consciously doing so. These assumptions are often different from others assumptions, which is why collaboration is so important. Even with collaboration, though, if a team’s assumptions are close enough to the same, we might blind ourselves to other methods or paths to solve our problems. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

It is therefore important to stop and examine what you assume when posed with a problem. Not all problems are nails.  There are different ways to solve every issue. You may even assume you must do certain things together, when in fact, it would be more advantageous to do a small portion first, even it doesn’t complete the entire problem as specified.

Note: The first step is to recognize that you have assumptions, and to understand what you assumed. The next step is to examine why you made that assumption.

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Weekly Challenges!

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When all you have is a hammer…

8/31/15: No New Weekly Challenge This Week

Hey folks, because I feel transparency is very important, and I want to keep it as the goal as my teams go through their cooldown and restart period, there is not a new weekly challenge this week (I promise it’s not just me being lazy…maybe). Keep working on transparency this week!

I’m going to try to do a marathon post to finish up the agile manifesto, since I’ve been slacking there (no really, actually a lot of stuff going on lately, not just me being lazy).  Please let me know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in a post!

Zan’s Weekly Challenge 8/25/15: Enhance Transparency To Improve Trust

It’s time once again for “Zan’s Weekly Challenge”! Each week, I will pose a challenge to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills or open your mind to new possibilities on your Agile journey.  I welcome you to post your feedback on this challenge as a comment on the blog, send me a tweet @zandterman, or any other way you see fit. (Sorry I’m a day late this week folks!)

This week’s challenge: Enhance Your Transparency To Improve Trust!

As anyone who works with me knows, one of my favorite statements to make is “Transparency = Trust”. It’s up on our whiteboards, and it’s a driving force behind everything we do, from task tracking on boards and information radiators, to quick cycle releases and reviews.

Transparency goes hand in hand with communication when it comes to solving problems.  Here’s some tips to help you be more transparent:

  • Don’t use information refrigerators. Post information out in the open, not locked away on a computer. If you need to use electronic tools to share as well, make sure you still show the data conspicuously where people will look without effort.  It may be a little harder, but the trust you gain is worth it.
  • If you’re tracking information, don’t hold onto it yourself, share it! Maybe someone else had a similar thought.  Maybe it will open some eyes, or someone else already has the info.
  • Be honest and open about the information you’ve gathered. No one is helped if you “adjust” the data to make things “look better”. If there’s a problem, solve it!

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Weekly Challenges!

quote-Dalai-Lama-a-lack-of-transparency-results-in-distrust-124032

Zan’s Weekly Challenge 8/17/15: Develop Your “T-Shaped” Skillset

It’s time once again for “Zan’s Weekly Challenge”! Each week, I will pose a challenge to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills or open your mind to new possibilities on your Agile journey.  I welcome you to post your feedback on this challenge as a comment on the blog, send me a tweet @zandterman, or any other way you see fit.

This week’s challenge: “Develop your ‘T-Shaped’ Skillset”

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a “T-Shaped” skillset, the idea here is that, while we all have our specialties and areas of expertise, we also have a diverse set of skills outside of that element which will make us into well rounded individuals. The area in which you are an expert forms the vertical portion of the ‘T’, while the supporting skills forms the top. For example, a Front End Developer’s skills will focus heavily on CSS, HTML, scripting and the like, they also have other supporting skills in Mid-tier and Back End development, and possibly design or testing as well.

T-shaped

This week, make a concerted effort to expand a skill outside of your comfort zone, or area of expertise. Some tips:

  • Don’t expect to get there on your own. Find your local expert and pick his/her brain a little. Also, be prepared to reciprocate. Teaching your skills is the best way to check your own level of understanding.
  • Don’t feel the need to become an expert.  If you’re not doing something all the time, a cursory understanding will give you the ability to assist the true expert.
  • A little learning goes a long way, but acknowledge your limits as well.  If Steven Hawking gives you a few lessons on physics, don’t expect to challenge Neil DeGrasse Tyson to a debate and win. There is always more to learn, and others to learn from.

Good luck with this challenge. Please let me know your results, what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future Zan’s Weekly Challenges!