Kool-Aid, Dogfood or Champaigne?

The saying, “you drank the Kool-Aid” may be a derisive way to say someone has been indoctrinated. Similar to a Borg-related “you will be assimilated“. Admitting to drinking the Kool-Aid seems synonymous with “going native“. I think it’s worse than that. It’s forever linked to the Guyana Tragedy for me and is tantamount to committing suicide.

The concept of dogfooding I understand and I am a fan. Both of the verbification of nouns and of using your own product. Just not of the words. Similar to not wanting to be a pig, I do not want to be a pig noshing on some dog food. Although pigs are smarter than chickens. Pigs must not have that sophisticated of a palette, I guess. I wouldn’t want to work in a dog food factory that practiced this, either.

I am a fan of brew making and like to go wine tasting at smaller places. It helps me understand the craft so that I may try to practice it myself. Understanding all the ingredients, the process and the taste sought after. I think the phrase is gaining some popularity and I am now blatantly advocating for its use. Let’s drink our own champagne!

Joining the community of thinkers

I am a member of a community of thinkers.

I believe that communities exist as homes for professionals to learn, teach, and reflect on their work.

I challenge each community in the software industry to:

* reflect and honor the practitioners who make its existence possible;
* provide an excellent experience for its members;
* support the excellent experience its members provide for their clients and colleagues in all aspects of their professional interactions;
* exemplify, as a body, the professional and humane behavior of its members;
* engage and collaborate within and across communities through respectful exploration of diverse and divergent insights;
* embrace newcomers to the community openly and to celebrate ongoing journeys; and
* thrive on the sustained health of the community and its members through continual reflection and improvement.

I believe that leaders builders in each community have a responsibility to exhibit these behaviors, and that people who exhibit these behaviors will become leaders the community’s builders.

I am a member of a community of thinkers. If I should happen to be a catalyst more than others, I consider that a tribute to those who have inspired me.

Creative Commons License

”A community of thinkers” by Liz Keogh, Eric Willeke and Jean Tabaka is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Kanban is the Agile way of saying “Phase Gate”

So that we can easily find ways to constantly improve while collaborating effectively and sustainably, I like kanban as a tool which shows what constrains transforming concepts into cash. I believe it allows us to see the whole system and our part in what to do to help in the transformation of the system into a better one and our ideas in to innovation. It seems to me there would be greater benefits for all involved.

For software a kanban tool must be highly visible, with a policy to strictly limit work in progress and a policy to only accept work when there’s capacity. To be effective, it requires consensus on these policies from the people involved.

Kanban is a Lean way of saying, “I trust and respect you”.

Traditional Hotel Managers on Duty

The last time traveling highlighted for me examples of managing by delegation. One example was with checking in, and the other was in getting another copy of my room key. In both examples I was led to believe that my requests would lead to action and instead, both examples led to disruption and stress for those involved.

Walking in to the hotel lobby I observed a line with about 3 people waiting. There were 4 people behind the desk working fastidiously. It seemed I wouldn’t have to wait long. The Manager on Duty (MOD) was greeting people in front of the desk and asking what he could do for them. I was in a very relaxed, patient mood and the MOD’s frenetic I NEED TO HELP YOU!!! attitude as he greeted arrivals was distracting. I tried to avoid him as I took my place in the line, bags at my feet. Alas, the desk people were slow enough that he reached me before I reached them.

Giving me a WELCOME and a hand shake and nervous laughter he demanded to know how he could be of help. I said, “Well, you could check me in.” and he said, “I cannot do that for you, is there anything else you need?” and I muttered, “I just want to check in…”. When traveling by plane I try to enter a near-meditative, relaxed state to help with how long the day will be. Even on short flights, I find the door-to-door commute usually takes no less than 6 hours and typically takes 8 or 9 before I truly reach my destination.

The manager’s attitude and behavior was definitely starting to wind me up. He actually interrupted one of the check in people and told her that I needed to check in and to get to me as soon as possible. So now we were all flummoxed and she was stressed even more and rushing and the atmosphere in the lobby went from relaxing to… PANIC! We need to get people checked in! AAAAUUUGH!!! DO YOUR JOB! His meddling just made everyone tense and actually elongated the process.

A couple nights later I had left my room without the key. I was at the very far end of the building, about 2 city blocks away from the front. So I began the excursion to the front desk. I stopped and resupplied at the vending machine and continued on my way. I finally got to the desk and there was one person behind the desk helping someone and one person waiting for help. A different MOD came up and asked if he could help with anything. I said, “Apparently not.”.

“What does that mean?”, he asked fairly enough.

Thinking of my last experience with the MOD I said, “I guess managers here are only allowed to tell others what to do, but not actually do anything themselves.”.

He expressed a bit of outrage and insisted, “I take that as a challenge and promise to help you. What can I do for you?”.

Standing in gym clothes, pocket-less and nearly late for my workout class I asked, “Can you get me a key? I’ve locked myself out”.

His reaction did not surprise me. “Oh, I can’t do that, but this young woman will be glad to help.” turning to her and interrupting her service of another customer, “this gentleman needs a key, can you get one to him as soon as possible?”.

She looked at me and we rolled our eyes at each other. It was the same person who checked me in and and I muttered, “How empowering! Please, take your time.”, being a little self-conscious of looking arrogant to the customer being helped, and to the staff. She was helpful and I got my key in enough time to make my class.

These situations remind me so much of how traditional managers behave, and how upsetting it can be for everyone involved. Do both these people have the same management style and personality? Were they trained the same? Is it a point of privilege not to do anything as a manger? Is it the people, or the system?

I would love to know your thoughts. If you have some answers or questions of your own, I invite you to leave a comment.

What Works Right Now?

Agile infiltrates an increasing amount of organizations. Changes in the jargon detect its influence. Phrases and words like “inspect and adapt”, “vertical slice”, “velocity”, and “collaborate” start getting batted around like volleyballs at a beach party. People ask questions in the serious tone of a late-night host discovering what is interesting about the guest: “What is the highest ranked item?”, “What are the acceptance criteria?”, “What does the team think?”. Zealots mutter incomprehensible phrases like “maximize the work not done” and “tracking actual hours worked is unnecessary”. People insist it takes a shift in mindset to understand, and yet we don’t sign up for loosing ours in the bargain. How should this be dealt with? Where to start?

Some current activities must be worthwhile. Utilizing these new Agile tools for working, the team can gain consensus on what those things are. It’s not that what we’re doing is under investigation like a new federal appointee. How can the team carry on the best of the organization while remaining willing to change that which does not work and moving on?

With the basics understood, one way may be through reflecting on what works right now. Retrospect and close out the old while opening up to the new. This may be intensive, as the scope of the session could be broad and wide.

What works well for the team? These are the team’s working agreements. What works in the process? Map out how ideas turn in to revenue with a value stream.

The best way to capture the information is with high visibility. Hung on the wall and written to be read across a room. While analyzing the information the team also looks for immediate improvements and prepares the way to embrace the new Agile culture.

Using a retrospective approach in this way helps the team build consensus through collaboration. Keep an active meeting objective visible, as well as an area to park off-topic suggestions and ideas. With the iterative approach of Agile the team can also safely begin transitioning away from traditional behaviors and courageously embracing this modern approach to software development.