The limits of advice – outside experts and your agile adoption

It takes something near wisdom to pinpoint the obstacles in your workplace.

By achieving this, you evidence rare concern to improve the work life of peers and improve their work products in ways your organization may not yet appreciate.

But having articulated a problem, you will often find no clear solution or an answer that is obvious but painful.

So you look to others for advice: peers, coaches, and thought leaders.

Don’t be surprised if the advice is unsatisfying. But this is no surprise.

Your challenges may look like a thousand examples but they are uniquely your own. At their root, they source from the people who make up your organization. People with a unique set of preconceptions, decisions, and values systems.

More essentially, you are a unique set of experiences, relationships, strengths and weaknesses and you are the essential agent for tackling this problem.

Be wary of any advice that doesn’t acknowledge this — that fails a test of respect and humility. No outside expert truly understands your situation or is deeply invested in solving it for you.

The best you can come away with is things to try, things to research, new questions to ask, analogies, fellowship and most importantly hope to persevere.

A worthy coach or advisor must approach your situation with patience and empathy. Listen and question as much as advise. Not fill the void of an answer with tangential descriptions of practice. Not pretend an answer that celebrates their abilities more than embraces your circumstances, “What you need to do…”

If you get the sense the coach or advisor is failing to listen or speaking more out of their own needs. Gleen what you can. Thank them. Move on.

But keep trying.

Don’t let the failings of the people in our community discourage you or diminish you. They are just peers with a different context. They are human too. And they are not you.

Presentation: Agile Values, Innovation and the Shortage of Women Software Developers

Presentation notes:

Judy, K.H.; , “Agile Values, Innovation and the Shortage of Women Software Developers,” System Science (HICSS), 2012 45th Hawaii International Conference on , vol., no., pp.5279-5288, 4-7 Jan. 2012

doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2012.92

Abstract: The percentage of women software developers in the U.S. has declined from 42% in 1987 to less than 25% today. This is in a software/internet marketplace where women are online in equal numbers to men, directly or indirectly influence 61% of consumer electronics purchases, generate 58% of online dollars, and represent 42% of active gamers. Women avoid careers in software due to hostile environments, unsustainable pace, diminished sense of purpose, disadvantages in pay, and lack of advancement, peers or mentors. Agile Software Development is founded upon values that challenge such dysfunction in order to build self-organizing, collaborative and highly productive teams. In a high functioning Agile practice, developers engage each other, product owners and sponsors in a shared concern for quality, predictability and meeting the needs of end users. Can Agile values and practice drive changes in the workplace to better attract and retain women software developers?


Innovation and collective product ownership (Agile 2007 presentation)

Jeff Patton reminded me about the product work my old Oxygen team did in 2006-2007. I dug out this presentation and accompanying paper that Ilio Krumins-Beens and I prepared for Agile 2007.

Our work anticipated the change in the Scrum Guide to consider the product owner as part of the team.

We developed an original windows software application using Scrum/XP with an onsite product owner and UX designer.

We evolved the product experience validating our assumptions using user personas and both informal and formal usability testing.

We released the product as a free Beta by the time of this presentation in 2007 and were working to build a customer base.

The lifecycle of a company (and the larger economy) doesn’t play nice with hopes and intentions. Oxygen was acquired by NBC-Universal before we were able to validate our assumptions.

Judy, K.H.; Krumins-Beens, I.; , “Ript: Innovation and Collective Product Ownership,” AGILE 2007 , vol., no., pp.316, 13-17 Aug. 2007

doi: 10.1109/AGILE.2007.49

Dear agile consultant – hiring criteria for coaches and mentors

play at your own riskDear consultant who uses “agile” as part of your brand,

I am a possible customer who embraces agile principles, practices agile techniques and has done so for years.

I admire the tenacity and talent it takes to build a business in consulting.

The best of you offer your clients techniques, language and a way of thinking that can better lives and turn around companies: advising them in ways to change their own organizations, bolstering their courage to experiment, helping them learn to iteratively learn, inspiring them to foster teams, empower individual contributors, incrementally improve, and helping them grow past dependency on your services.

Here’s how I judge whether a thought leader is a worthy mentor:

  • Your reputation among those of your peers I know and respect.
  • Do you provide context/share credit: “This is where it originated, this is who popularized or researched it, this is who’s written well on it. This is my version of it.”
  • Do you espouse principles: “This is about defining work that builds equity because it offers real benefit to end users and a way of working that entrusts individual contributors of diverse talents to collaborate within teams to deliver that benefit.”
  • Are you frank: “Most companies who try this fail. Most managers who try this will not change their own behavior enough to allow their teams to succeed for them.”
  • Do you embody the principles: “It is about your team(s). Not me. I do not have right answers only experience, a willingness to listen, and techniques to help us figure out what you need to do to help yourselves.”

Conversely, these are the bad smells:

  • Celebrating the widespread adoption of “Agile” without acknowledging most “agile” adoptions are crap.
  • Celebrating scale not individual team excellence.
  • Focusing on techniques not principles as if “stories” and “iterations” were magic.
  • Talking about software tools before disciplined engineering practice.
  • Talking about “value” and “productivity” as if a leader’s understanding of these terms were not a/the major obstacle to their workers ability to perform.
  • Jamming agile practices into a contradictory way of thinking: “Agile process manager” anyone?
  • Coining new jargon for a slight spin on existing practices: It looks like a timebox, smells like a timebox, tastes like a timebox. “I call it creato-inno-rations™.”
  • Putting yourself above the problem: Just because you were really good when you practiced doesn’t mean you are a brilliant coach. Just because you’re a brilliant coach doesn’t mean you can do my job better than me. Just because you can do my job better than me doesn’t mean paying you to not do my job provides my company value.
  • Overheated claims of personal invention/Not giving credit to others. Sorry guys (and I mean guys), Mary Poppendieck was talking kanban and software development fifteen years ago. You’ve advanced the craft, you’re changing minds, and you may be very good at what you do but you are not Archimedes.

As a potential customer, I need your honest criticism, I am impressed by your ability to learn from others. I respect determination and humility more than bravado.

Give credit where credit is due and do exceptionally well.

Styling jetpack sharing google plus button

Nothing profound.

I use jetpack so I wanted to use the provided sharedaddy module.

The google plus button is a new addition and displays the medium button with default annotation.

I don’t have the traffic to display annotations. I want to use the small button.

So per google’s docs, I edited the sharing-sources.php file



Better approach

Of course, the above hack reverted the next time I updated jetpack. So, I did this in javascript instead:

Note: (9/2012) Google updated their api to change from count=false to annotation=none. Snipped above updated to reflect this…

jQuery(‘.googleplus1_button iframe’).attr(“src”, jQuery(‘.googleplus1_button iframe’).attr(“src”).replace(/count=true/,”count=false”));