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…
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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!

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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.

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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!

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!

Zan’s Weekly Challenge 7/27/15: Own Your Goals

Hello dear readers!

It’s time for a new feature here at the Zan-gile Methodology! 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 even send a smoke signal or carrier pigeon!

This weeks challenge: Commit to your goals completely.

Some tips to help with this:

  • Watch your language: Use firm, strong language when speaking of your goals. Say “I will” instead of “I plan to”. Don’t hedge on contingencies. Speak your goals out loud, either to your team or to yourself, using clear, simple terms.
  • Have SMART goals: SMART stands for Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed/Time Boxed. Make clear goals which you can complete, which you will be able to determine is complete, in a certain amount of time, that will provide some sort of benefit.
  • Be honest and true. If you don’t complete your goal, own it. Examine why this happened. Find areas to improve. Was your goal really SMART? If you did complete your goal, was it too easy? Can you challenge yourself further next time?

Please let me know what you think of this challenge, and if you have any ideas for future weekly challenges!

I just want to tell you, good luck. We're all counting on you.