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!

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!

pushboundaries

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!

hammer-f
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!

Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto – Part 1: Satisfaction, Changes and Frequency

Hello everyone! I’m back with another installment in my Back to Basics series. If this is your first look at the Back to Basics posts, or want a general overview of the Agile Manifesto and its principles, please check this post. This time, I’ll be talking about the first three principles listed, which will likely make this a series of four posts, covering a few principles each time.

Customer Satisfaction

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Well that’s a good way to start. We’ve already identified the most important thing, no matter what you’re making, building, or doing: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer.  It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what your job title is, or who you report to. Every job, position, project or undertaking has a purpose behind it, and generally that purpose is to help someone. That someone is your customer. If your highest priority isn’t to satisfy that person, someone else will. Of course this principle also goes into how we can provide satisfaction: early and continuous delivery of value. Even if you’re not in software, this can still apply. Instead of holding all the value until you have a “complete product”, deliver working pieces of the product as soon as possible to ensure the customer is on the road towards satisfaction, then continue to deliver to keep that relationship positive.

Change is Power

Welcome changing requirements, even late in  development. Agile processes harness change for  the customer’s competitive advantage.

This ties right back into the first principle. If we want to satisfy our customer, then if the customer needs something to change, we must make adjustments. Regardless of how good a plan one has, or how long you’ve followed it, the plan is not valuable if it does not represent true value in the present. If your requirements seem to be fine, but then a sinkhole opens in front of you, are you going to change your plan, or jump right into the hole?  This seems simple, but changing momentum is hard, and having the courage to do so is even harder! Those who can harness change, however, will find greater satisfaction with the product, knowing that the best product possible was delivered.

High Frequency

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Once again, we’re tying right back into principle numero uno here.  Deliver early. Deliver often. The shorter the time between delivery points, the more likely you will be to know what your customer needs. If you’re on the right track, they’ll be happy. If you’re not, you’ll change, and then they’ll be happy.  Some Agile teams deliver value so often, they are continuously integrating new features, taking even less than one day to complete and deliver a feature!

In Summary

The first 3 principles of the Agile Manifesto focus on delivering value and increasing customer satisfaction. By delivering early, often and frequently, and by allowing requirements to change whenever it is needed, we can ensure we deliver the most valuable product to our customers, thereby increasing the customers’ satisfaction! Happy customers make for happy workers!

Thanks for reading, more will be on the way soon. Please feel free to leave comments below!

Zan’s Weekly Challenge 8/10/15: Be Honest With Others and Yourself

It’s time for the next “Zan’s Weekly Challenge”! Weekly, I will pose a challenge to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills or open your mind to new possibilities on your Agile journey.  While I have no way of following up with most of you regarding these challenges, I welcome you to post your feedback as a comment, send me a tweet @zandterman, or any other way you see fit.

This week’s challenge: Be honest with others and with yourself.

Being honest is a fundamental part of Agile. If you are not being honest, there is absolutely no way to improve yourself, or to help others improve, whether they be teammates, co-workers, managers or friends. While it may be easier to try to spare someone’s feelings (or your own!) by being dishonest, it doesn’t address the problem and can harm you in the long run when the truth comes out. Some tips:

  • Use simple, direct language. Don’t try to skirt the issue, or assume someone knows what you’re talking about unless you say it.
  • While it is important to be honest about your feelings and opinions, remember the difference between feelings, opinions and facts.
  • Being honest is not a license to be a jerk. It is possible to hold compassion while still telling someone a truth they may not want to hear. Unless you’re already a jerk. Then you should honestly try being less of a jerk (we can all probably try that).

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!

A little note: For those interested in when my “Back to Basics” series will continue, I had honestly planned that I would have continued them last week and would have still kept going and been near completion by this point, but we all know what can happen to plans. That being said, I do plan to continue the series this week, but I’m not going to put an upper limit on completion for the whole series. I may also interject other posts in the middle prior to finishing if the value is there (or the mood strikes). If you have any questions, feedback or words of encouragement, please feel free to contact me!

Zan’s Weekly Challenge 8/3/15: Understand the “Why?” of What You Do

It’s time for the next “Zan’s Weekly Challenge”! Weekly, I will pose a challenge to help spur your thoughts, strengthen your skills or open your mind to new possibilities on your Agile journey.  While I have no way of following up with most of you regarding these challenges, I welcome you to post your feedback as a comment, send me a tweet @zandterman, or any other way you see fit.

This week’s challenge: Understand the “Why?” of the things you do.

All too often we go through our daily routines, never asking why we do some of the things we do, whether they be for ourselves or others. By understanding the reasons we do things, instead of just doing them, we can also then examine our reactions and whether those reactions were fitting to the desired outcome. Some examples:

  • Understand why you are doing a project. What are you trying to accomplish? What will you or others gain from this project? Given that understanding, is there a better way of delivering those gains?
  • Understand why you are in a particular mood. What have you done lately to affect your mood? Are you lacking something? What can be done to improve your mood?
  • Understand the why from other people as well. If someone asks you to do something and you don’t understand, ask and discuss why. You will come to a better understanding of that person, and likely respect their reason for asking as well.

Those are just a few possible “Why”‘s to comprehend. Some other tips:

  • Don’t just stop at one “Why?”. Question your reasoning until you reach true understanding. There is a practice called “5 whys” wherein you question a response 5 times, seeking the truest reason for a problem, action or result.
  • It’s OK to ask why! Do it in a respectful manner, and if someone is resistant or upset by this, explain your reasoning and have open and honest communication.
  • “Because I said so.”, “Because it’s my job”, “Because that’s the way the world is” and other responses of that ilk are generally cop-outs. They don’t lead to understanding. Examine further and find the root.

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!