Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Principles, not Principals

As some of you know, I have been volunteering for the amazing folks at Blueprint Education.

They are working to bring agile values and principles to education (at all levels.. not just students).   

Executives, Principals, Guidance counselors, Teachers, and Students are all learning to work in a team based, collaborative way. They are learning to learn together. 

I was there last year to participate in an awesome event where students volunteered to start Scrum teams to do community work and improve their school.  A link to that post here.

About two months ago I had an fascinating conversation with the Principal of one of the High Schools. She said to me... 

"Mike, we will work to run our high-school with
Principles, not Principals". 

She (as part of a Scrum Team herself), had realized that what she needed to do was to empower her teachers to be responsible for themselves and make decisions on their own without a heavy handed approach from her. She could then focus her energies on coaching others, supporting students and helping other schools in their system out.

Learning to be Agile
(c) Blueprint Education, 2016

The teachers are also using Scrum at the school level. Their Scrum board is visible to all their students. Imagine complete transparency for students as to what the teachers are doing! Then, imagine the accountability the teachers have to the students.

That's a shocker already.... but....

Then she said...  

"Mike, I am excited about this. I already talked with the teachers to make sure they were interested in having this level of responsibility and freedom instead of just telling them this was happening. I'm nervous but excited about this."  

WOW.. That's all I can say.. If you are an educator, imagine this level of empowerment and responsibility.

Of course, the teachers (who are already learning about self-empowerment for themselves and to help their students), were of course pleased and excited. They learned Scrum so they could better facilitate it's use for Students. This way, everybody is on equal ground when it comes to learning and approach to learning (or work).

Some of the Blueprint team will be presenting their progress at the Scrum Gathering 2016 in Orlando. If you are there, go by for a visit.

I know that Mark French (the CEO) or any of the Principals, Guidance counselors, Teachers, and many of the students would be pleased to tell their story. 

Here's their info...


To reach out to them,  start here , or email them at  agile@blueprinteducation.org to ask to hear more.

I love what these educators are trying to seriously change the way education works and I am honoured to know them. I proudly wear my "Learning to be Agile" shirt they gave me during my last visit.

If you would like to learn a bit more about the concepts of Agility in Education, someone shared this wonderful post with me today. It might give you some insight into where they are coming from.

Please, reach out to the folks at Blueprint. They would be more than happy to share their amazing story! 

Their contact email:  agile@blueprinteducation.org

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Selecting project delivery dates

Ask yourself....  

Is this your approach to selecting a delivery date for your project ?

Throw - courtesy of zolakoma

Should it be?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Inspect and Adapt versus Report and Adapt

A simple post today.... 

Yes...Just the picture today.

Download links....

PDF format

PNG format

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Some honest talk about electronic tools

Occasionally, a brave soul will bring up the topic of electronic tools in direct opposition to what is going on at many Enterprise clients today. 

I see this type of reaction often from other coaches that arrive at a client where the managers have declared.  "We bought and Enterprise Version of Jira for our Agile Transformation".

Thanks Mishkin for having the courage to bring up this topic again in this linkedIN post.

I have seen a recurrent pattern where companies impose tools on their teams or organizations to "help" them become agile.

What ends up happening is exactly the opposite. 

The tools serve to keep the old management structure in place instead, rather than allowing change to happen. 

At a minimum, a force it on the teams approach often serves to kill self-organization.

If a tool is chosen, the tool should serve the team(s).. 

not the other way around.

Even better... 

If the teams go the tool route....

Consider letting the team(s) choose the tool.

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Certifications - Something feels wrong.

It's a fascinating observation that those who have attained certifications seem to want to make it harder for others to get them....

Especially interesting is when those same people wanted it to be easier to obtain that certification when they didn't have it.

It has become increasingly evident to me that Certifications create a carrot and stick mentality in the people who have them to "inspire" those that don't. 

The unethical, confrontational, protectionist, command and control, and non inspirational conversations I have seen around certifications has been creating a crisis of character for me. This is because I have many certifications of my own, and I am proud to have them.

Sometimes I wonder.....

Is it time for me to cancel all of my certifications so I can focus on collaboration and respect instead of all the noise created by the Certification Industry?

I must admit..... I am glad those certifications exist so there is stuff for me to learn. I love to learn. I also truly appreciate those that work to share their knowledge and insight and believe in what they do with passion and conviction.

I have many friends and peers who truly care about helping others and making the world a better place. Some of them have certifications, some do not. This to me confirms that the certification does not make the person. 

I know that for many of my certifications, I obtained them through hard work and a desire to better myself and to get better at helping othersIn retrospect, I too have been treated to the carrot and stick. I do not regret this... Maybe I resent it a bit. I haven't worked that out yet.

Conversations around who can and who cannot have a certification have a place and a purpose. I get that. It's not that they are wrong.... They just seem to be in opposition to my personal goals of helping others rather than restricting them.

I also understand and appreciate that Certification is a form of protection for unsuspecting people or organizations to not be taken advantage of in their pursuit of knowledge or help. When, I'm buying, it's important for me to have an idea what I'm getting. 

I am glad that people can have some confidence in my help through the certifications that I have. This puts them somewhat at ease which can help a relationship (and my ability to help them) significantly.

Which is why... I honestly haven't decided yet. 

I do know .... it would make me happier to see people being treated better and with respect.

People are not cattle to be "attained"...  People should be served.

If I didn't believe this, I shouldn't call myself....

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Vertical Slice

If your "agile transformation" is introducing a replacement hierarchy for your existing one, you need to be asking some tough questions.



Take a look at an approach that comes from the software development community.... "The Vertical Slice".

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Idea Folder as feedback from Leadership Information Radiators of Sprint Goals

I have been working with a leadership team recently on the concept of transparency and what this really could mean to them as an organization.

The idea that transparency might be two-way has been an eye opening experience for them. Here's a link to an old post about transparency, should you be interested.

As a first step to improving transparency, they are leading by example....

The Leadership Scrum Team is publishing their two week Sprint Goal on an information radiator at all locations for all to see. Awesome. 

They have already learned that once a year or once a quarter feedback loops are far too slow for a modern organization. 

A positive feedback loop for ideas and innovation to help the Leadership Team to create (and adjust) the Organizational Product Backlog Items is needed. This allows the leadership team to serve their organization rather than direct it.

A few years back, I came up with an idea that could help leadership teams find the courage to provide Information Radiators that include a feedback mechanism. 

Instead of asking for "Feedback" or "Complaints", or "Impediments", they simply put an "IDEAS" slot on their information radiators. 

If the leadership team is effectively using Scrum, there will already be active feedback after every sprint from internal and/or external stakeholders during their Sprint Review.

Many people feel good about enhancing and improving good ideas. By making what you are working on visible, you give others the opportunity to join you in your quest.

Something I have seen on an actual card once (modified for privacy of course)... 

That's a great story from the leadership team this Sprint.. Imagine if you also did _______.  Now, that would be great!

By putting the feedback cards next to specific work being done, it creates an implied reference between ideas and what is being radiated. Others might use it for other things. Hey... that's OK too.

I am not advocating that all "problem solving" go away. Regular inspect and adapt cycles are always important.

In this case, it might be more appropriate for you to invest energy on enhancing positive information and ideas coming to you every two weeks!

If you are on a leadership team working on transparency, I'll leave you with a final thought...

In a world where so many negative feedback loops already exist, consider how a positive feedback loop could help to spur innovation and creativity and put you in a position where you can improve your ability to serve.

Mike Caspar