Monday – Agile2019

What a fun day! I’m writing this after enjoying a great time at our Learning Track Reviewers and Speakers get-together. The Ice Breaker Reception is going on, but for those who know me, know that I need to manage my energy at this conference, so I’m back in my room, recharging.

After Christina Hartikainen kicked us off with information from the week, it was time to move into Chris Bailey‘s keynote on how to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction.

Chris shared his story of how he’s been researching productivity for a number of years, including reading hundreds of books, and as he was researching, he created the “productivity golden rule,” which was, “for every minute he read about productivity, it had to give that minute back and then some.”

He spoke to the “productivity porn” that we all fall victim to, with the many “life hacks” that are out there – including how to reheat pizza in a hotel room with an iron and a hair dryer. He started to figure out, “how do I get to the bottom of what works and what doesn’t work” and it instilled a life-long curiosity in him.

He looked at the research, and what advice was built into science. He interviewed the greats and tried weird experiments on himself, considering himself a “human guinea pig.” He recognized the importance of recharging, elevating one’s heartbeat and sleeping. So whenever he felt himself dragging, he asked himself, “when was the last time I worked out?”

He started to see motivation as a flywheel and that the better management of time, energy and attention, led to move productivity.

He shared some strategies, including the “rule of three,” and how we, as humans, can only hold three pieces of information in our mind at once. He asked the crowd to do an exercise where we wrote down and shared the three things we were hoping to accomplish this week. The sharing of the information helps reprocesses the information and intention.

Regarding energy, he shared that energy fluctuates throughout the day, and he shared the experiments that he did to text his fluctuation, including the slob experiment, where he was a slob for week. Needless to say, he energy was low.

This helped him identify his Biological Prime Time and Creative Points, and then he led the group through an exercise where each person was able to identify their energy levels.

Next was all about screen time. He talked about an experiment where he only used his phone for 30 minutes a day, and within a week, he realized that his attention grew, there was more focus and more ideas and plans for the future. He shared that it’s not that the problem is distraction, that’s only a symptom, it’s more that our minds crave the distraction – we love the novelty and our neurochemistry rewards us for it.

We do not want boredom. To test this, he created a “month of boredom” and asked his followers for ideas for how to be bored, e.g. read the iTunes Terms and Conditions. What he found was that the additional capacity was amazing, and it took about one week for the mind to “chill.”

With that capacity, our minds, think about the past less, the present a little more, but the future the most. Our minds have a prospective nature.

We think that we have to fit more in, but we don’t – we need more space for the things we try to fit in.

Think about traffic – the speed of traffic depends on the distance between one car to the next. Create that space. He offered up a challenge to everyone to take two weeks to dissimulate the mind by limiting screen time, disconnect, rediscover boredom, use scatter focus and other internal solutions to tame the environment and external factors, e.g. turn on grayscale on our phones, being kind to ourselves, managing our energy and taking advantage of our energy peaks.

The “state of our attention determines the state of our life.”

Continuous Learning at Work – Cara Turner

Next up was my first Track Chair duty! I introduced Cara Turner who was speaking on Continuous Learning at Work.

I really like Cara’s session because she got to the root of why organizational learning efforts sometimes fizzle and die. She broke down the various ways that we acquire knowledge (and whether it’s internal or external) and the various ways that we try to incorporate learning in our organizations (Communities of Practice, Tech Talks, etc).

Then there’s also mentoring and pairing, but that usually only provides a “smaller radius” to the training. How do we crack this cycle and maximize the strengths?

She shared that engagement matters and that it needs to be sustained over time, that it must be “opt-in” (we can’t force learnings).

That we need to build a supportive learning environment, and nurture and protect it as it starts to grow roots to ensure that the roots are deep enough. The primary influence is the environment which we create.

Cara then shared the Cynefin Framework and went over the areas and how learning and sense-making were applied when considering a system. Then she shared the Know/Don’t Know grid and stressed the following points:

1. In a Know/Know Scenario, the knowledge is Explicit, then we need to Leverage it.

2. In a Don’t Know/Know Scenario, then the know is Tacit, and we need to Uncover it.

3. In a Know/Don’t Know Scenario, then it’s a Quest for knowledge, and we need to Chart the Journey.

4. In a Don’t Know/Don’t Know Scenario, then it’s a Risk, and we need to Discover those risks.

When we’re aware (#1 and #2), these are internal indicators, and when we’re unaware (#3 and #4), then these are external indicators.

Cara then walked us through an exercise of how to 1) Create our learning journey and 2) Create a culture of Continuous Learning.

What I really liked was she shared Bloom’s Taxonomy for one of the ways that we learn, and then she shared a number of tactics for how to encourage learning. At our tables we created posters of the ways that we would accomplish those two objectives.

After Cara’s session, it was time for lunch. I grabbed lunch at the Sports Bar, reading and responding to email. Then I went to the Agile Alliance Lounge to be there if anyone had questions about Women in Agile.

After lunch, I introduced one of the track speakers, Nate Haut, and then went to see Dean Leffingwell speak on “The Road to Business Agility”

The Road to Business Agility – Dean Leffingwell

Dean‘s talk was centered around “what is business agility?” and the “project vs. product mindset.” He stressed that projects do include the customer, so they are not a good model for customer focus because customers use a product or a service.

He walked through the various technical revolutions and asked the audience what period are we currently living in. He shared that if your organization is still using the words “IT” and “The Business” then that organization is not ready to compete because yesterday’s solutions aren’t going to get us where we need to be.

He walked through the genesis of his current company from a network organization to a hierarchical one. He shared how they needed to be clearer about decision making rights and how to decentralize. That the values needed to cross boundaries and not get caught up in hierarchies. That innovation has the tendency to perturb the system that values hierarchy.

It requires a paradigm shift that balances stability and speed. There needs to be a “dual operating system.” Then he shared the “Five Core Competencies of a Lean Enterprise” and dove into greater detail on each one.

He stressed the concept of Design Thinking where it prompts someone to think 1) Do I understand the problem and 2) Given that understanding, can I design a solution? There is a period of not knowing. Dean shared the story of an apartment building where people were complaining about how long the elevators took. It would have taken a sizable investment to replace the elevators, so someone who was thinking in a “Design Thinking” mindset, thought – “what’s the problem?”, and the realized that people were bored. So they added mirrors next to the elevators. Complaints dropped.

Really enjoyed Dean’s session, including the part where he asked me to explain #NoProjects.

After Dean’s session, I introduced Mehmet Baha’s session on Learning Organizations and then had to take a work call. After the work call, it was time for the Learning Track Get-Together, which was really fun! It was great to get to meet people face-to-face and also get to know them better! Here’s to an awesome day, and an even better tomorrow.

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