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Roundup of recently attended Chicago Meetups – March

In March, I attended some really great Meetups in Chicago that gave me the opportunities to learn new ways of working, more about how rank and power can help (or hinder) an Agile adoption and an awesome presentation that reinvigorated my hope that sometimes radical ideas can work.

Getting Intentional About Rank and Power in Agile Organizations

On Tuesday, March 15, I attended “Getting Intentional About Rank and Power in Agile Organizations,” hosted by The Chicago Agile Methodology Group. The venue was Catalyst Ranch – slight tangent, wow, what a creative and fun meeting/working space! You have to see it to believe it.

In her presentation, Kelly Fidei, who received her doctorate on power, provided insight into the bias that leaders have in their rank/power in the organization. The opening comment was “the higher you travel on the organizational ladder, the further your grasp on reality loosens.”

The main point that she conveyed was that “power, rank and the ways that they show up in organizations can block agile from moving beyond teams, into leadership and the organizational culture, causing Agile to ‘die on the vine.’”

Her presentation does a great job covering the following topics in more detail:

  1. Why bother talking about rank and power in agile?
  2. Why does agile have trouble moving beyond teams, to leaders and culture?
  3. What are the different definitions of power?
  4. What is the “Death Zone” of rank that kills agile?
  5. What does rank mean in our world and how do we recognize it in agile organizations?
  6. Is rank going away? What do we do to grow leaders in the organization?

If you’re a leader in an organization, I highly suggest checking it out – at a minimum for the reminder of the bias that you might not be aware that you have.

More with LeSS: A Decade of Descaling with LeSS

At the previous Meetup, a fellow attendee had recommended that I check out a Meetup group called “The People Side of Software” run by Juliana Ceja. The next day, I received an invite from another person for this Meetup hosted, but none other than “The People Side of Software.” What a small world the Chicago Tech scene is!

This Meetup was an awesome opportunity to hear about LeSS from Craig Larmen, one of the co-creators. It was one of those Meetups that you didn’t want to end. Those of us in the audience were hungry for information and advice.

LeSS is a scrum scaling framework that focuses on creating small, self-managing teams that are full-stack to be able to develop/deliver whatever is needed to get that feature/product in the hands of a customer.

There’s lots of information about LeSS online, but the two takeaways that I’d like to share are:

  1. The way that Craig ran the Meetup:
    1. He spent about 10-15 minutes on a “presentation” to set context and share principles of LeSS with the group.
    2. Then he turned it over into a “organized Q&A” by having each participant partner up with the person next to them and spend 3-5 minutes coming up with a list of questions. He asked that one person be identified as the question recorder (someone who writes down the questions for the pair).
    3. Then he asked which Question Recorders have a birthday in January. One hand shot up, questions were asked, dialog occurred, and then he asked who had a birthday in February, any unanswered questions from January’s were asked and discussed, and so on. What an effective way to handle audience questions!
  2. In one of the Question and Answer segments, Craig suggested watching the video – Systems Optimization & Organizational Design: a LeSS Perspective. I watched it and loved it. His advice is so practical; and while I’m not convinced of the Holacracy movement yet, I can see how some of the benefits based on what Craig describes.

And, in a weird twist of fate, Kelly, Juliana and I are all on an upcoming panel – Women in Agile, hosted by Chicago Agile Open Space Meetup, in June. I’m looking forward to participating along with these talented women.

Facilitating Self-Forming Agile Teams at Scale at Uptake

Finally, on March 29, I attended the “Facilitating Self-Forming Agile Teams at Scale at Uptake,” hosted by the Lean and Agile Learning Network – Chicago, where Jeff Steinberg, Director of Agile Practices at Uptake.

Jeff shared with us the huge undertaking that happened at Uptake where he and his coaches facilitated the creation of 20+ agile teams – all through self-selection by team members. That’s hundreds of people!

His presentation inspired me and renewed by hope that something this daring and challenging could be pulled off with a lot of success. Most would agree that the ideal for team assignment is self-selection – most team members would love the opportunity to “sign-up” for a team vs. having their manager make the assignment. Doing this in small teams is easy, but doing it in such a large organization is impressive.

Jeff walked us through the story of how the concept went from idea to reality – it wasn’t easy – from addressing fears that would spring up to the logistics of planning and executing what Uptake called “Teamification” Day.

I won’t try to do it justice by explaining the process/approach that they used, so hopefully Jeff will share his presentation again. Maybe when Uptake has gone through a few cyles with the new idea of an internal, physical “job board” for individuals wanting to move teams or teams that need new members.

If you’re not already a member of these Meetup groups in Chicago, please check them out – they’re a great way to learn and network.

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