Control and Creativity

Last month, I had the privilege to study with a renowned artist, Nancy Crow. It was a wonderful experience. Of course I learned about art —design principles, use of color, figure ground tension. I also came smack up against an issue that I see in so many...

Six Ways to Build Trust

Trust may seem mysterious—something that just happens or grows through some unknowable process. The good news is there are concrete actions that tend to build trust (and concrete actions that are almost guaranteed to break down trust). First, let’s agree on a...

Interview by Marcus Blankenship

I recently sat down for a chat with Marcus Blankenship of Programming Leadership. We talked about my book, 7 Rules for Positive Productive Change, and how change plays out for people and organizations. You can listen to the full interview on Marcus Blankenship’s...

Rules of Thumb for Agile Coaches

At the end of one of my Team Coaching workshops, a participant–an agile coach with years of experience– remarked, “I had no idea there was more to coaching than asking questions.” Another coach commented, “I see now why me teaching how to write stories...

An Alternative to the Annual Review

Well, it’s that time again — time for the yearly performance evaluation. The ritual starts with gathering feedback, proceeds to assigning rating/ranking, and drags on through doling out a raise. Do you enjoy annual performance evaluations? Thought not....

Change Artist Super Powers: Patience

John was out of patience. “It shouldn’t take this long!” John, the VP of Development, snapped. “Its just not that hard!” The “it” John referred to was a set of measures and metrics. He believed that if all the teams reported these, everyone would be better able to...

The Risks of Anonymous Feedback

In one of the online forums I participate in, someone declared that feedback between peers must be anonymous. His rationale was that people won’t be honest without anonymity. I have found that it is possible to be honest and not anonymous.  I’ve also found...

Change Artist Super Powers: Empathy

Some people seem to think that empathy has no place at work…that work requires a hard-nose, logic, and checking your emotions at the door. But, in periods of change, emotions—which are always present, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not—surge to the surface....

Jobs don’t fit in neat little boxes.

Most job descriptions decompose work into discrete chunks, clearly defining what each position must do. Competency models list required behaviors, seeking standardization across contexts. In essence, these models are akin to specifications for machine parts. Complex...

Change Artist Super Powers: Experimentation

In my previous two posts, I wrote about curiosity and observation. In this one, I’ll share some ideas about experimentation— my third Change Artist Super Power.   Tiny changes, done as experiments, may feel like you’re dancing around the real issue instead of facing...

Change Artist Super Powers: Observation

When I was a kid, there was a party game called Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The game involved a large wall poster of a sad-looking, tailless donkey. Armed with a replacement tail and a pin, each child attempted to give the donkey a new tail—while blind-folded and a...

Change Artist Super Powers: Curiosity

In my work, I draw on models, frameworks, and years of experience. Yet, one of my most valuable tools is a simple one: Curiosity. In an early meeting with a client, a senior manager expressed his frustration that development teams weren’t meeting his schedule....

Forgotten Questions of Change

I’ve been thinking about and observing organizational change for a very long time. It seems to me that –in their enthusiasm for efficiency, planning, “managing” change– people often overlook some critical questions. A handful of questions...

Using Data in Problem-Solving

Several years ago, I was called to help an organization that was experiencing system outages in their call center. After months of outages and no effective action, they appointed an Operations Analyst to collect data and get to the bottom of the problem. Once they had...

What Does Your Product Do?

When it gets dark, I turn on a light. I can work, cook, read—long after sundown. I can see where I’m going, avoid the dog toys on the floor, and not run into furniture. If I need something that’s in the house, I can find it. The simple flip of a switch makes many...

Assessing Team Improvement

Managers who have invested effort and money in training teams in Agile methods want to see team improvement–reasonable enough. I’ve written about a handful of reasonable measures that indicate the organization is improving over all ( here and here). Some...

Seven Agile Best Practices

Someone I don’t know offered to teach me Agile Best Practices recently. I tend to think there are “generally good practices,” some of which are broadly applicable.  In my experience, the search for Best Practices is often a search for Silver Bullets,...

Agile and The Chasm

Someone posed the question:  Has Agile Crossed the Chasm?, a reference to Moore’s work on marketing. Agile is no longer the prevue of pioneers and visionaries.  Agile shows up in the popular business press. PMI is all over it.   The big accounting/consulting...

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