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...

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...

Using Data in Problem-Solving

Many problems are easier to solve when you have data. However, there is a difference between having data and using data. Several years ago, I worked wit an organization that was experiencing system outages. After months of outages and no effective action, they...

What Does Your Product Do?

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...

The Elements of Improvement

Improvement requires three factors: Information. People need information about the context and how their work fits into the big picture. They need information from the work so they can self-correct. Without this information, systematic improvement is impossible. A...

Hiring is a Team Activity

Hiring new people for a team should always be a joint decision that involves team members. After all, who has more at stake than the people who will work with the new person day in and day out? Consider what happened when a well-intentioned manager decided to hire...

The Costs of a Struggling Team

Last week, I posted a mind map that shows the benefits of the team effect.  But what about the costs of a team that is not doing well?  A team that isn’t working well doesn’t have a neutral effect. A struggling team costs the people and the organization in...

The Team Effect

A while back, I posted a little mind map about business costs of a struggling team.  But what about the benefits of the team effect?  What does a business gain when teams thrive?

Estimating is often helpful. Estimates are often not.

“Estimating is often helpful. Estimates are often not,” I said in a Tweet. Several people asked, “How can this be?” Let me say more about agile estimation, in more than 140 characters. Estimating is often helpful. Estimating helps when the...

Hiring for an Agile Team: 4 Reasons to Up Your Hiring Game

Most companies have policies that govern the selection and hiring process for new employees. Not a bad thing.  But I’ve noticed that in many of the companies I visit–especially the big ones–the guidelines put far less rigor around hiring people for...

Building Effective Teams: Miss the Start, Miss the End

(This article originally appeared on Gantthead.com) A manager’s relationship with a team as they work is essential for cultivating a self-organizing team and maintaining a link with the organization. But a managers role regarding effective teams starts long...

Supporting Team-Based Work

Many of the companies I work with want the benefit of the team effect in software development. The managers in these companies recognize the enormous benefits teams provide to the company–creativity, engagement, learning. However, in many of these companies, the...

Rethinking Manager’s Relationship with Agile Teams

This article originally appeared on gantthead.com  In the early days of agile, some pundits (and developers) cried, “We don’t need no stinking managers.” By now, most people realize that organizations still need management (and people in management...

Empowering Leadership II

Every team needs leadership, even self-organizing teams. When I make this statement, some people assume I mean that every team needs a designated leader.  I can’t blame them, most people are accustomed to thinking of leadership residing in a role or a charismatic...

Double Loop Learning in Retrospectives II

Slides from a talk I gave on Double Loop Learning in Retrospectives: Double Loop Learning in Retrospectives View more presentations from Esther Derby And take a look at PROMOTING DOUBLE LOOP LEARNING IN RETROSPECTIVES.

Yes. No. Negotiate.

Many people are conditioned to say Yes to every request that comes their way. I met a CIO like that. He told me his policy was to never say No to the business. So he always said Yes, and the business was always angry because things he agreed to didn’t get done,...

Promoting Double Loop Learning in Retrospectives

“The thinking that got us here isn’t the thinking that’s going to get us where we need to be.”  attributed to Albert Einstein I have  this niggling concern about retrospectives. I have no doubt that retrospectives that are too short,...

Yours, Mine, Ours: Clarifying Decision Boundaries

I recently talked to a group that’s forming a new “change leadership” team.  Part of the work of the team is improving the organization, and part is capacity building. Four of the people on the team are folks with technical backgrounds who are viewed as having...

Best Argument != Best Ideas

I was talking to my friend Penny the other day about a team she coaches. She has a problem I’ve seen on many teams: a smart guy (or gal) who dominates the team. I’ll call Penny’s team member Bob. Most of the time Bob is an asset to the team. But when...

Team Values, Team Norms, Working Agreements, and Rules

Bob Sutton posted a piece on Team Guidelines that got me thinking how team values can be shaped and influenced. The guidelines–all Mom and Apple Pie–were handed down by a new boss for the team to follow. The list starts with “Show Respect.”...

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