Wednesday – Agile2019

How is it Wednesday already? This week has felt really long with all the information that’s been shared, but it’s also going by really quickly!

Ish: The problem with our pursuit for perfection and the life-changing practice of good enough – Lynne Cazaly

As a former perfectionist, who still slips back into that behavior, I really appreciated this session. Lynne shared that perfectionism is on the rise – it’s the irrational desire to achieve and criticism of ourselves and others. However, perfectionism and high performance are not related, and perfectionism is usually described as the “favorite flaw.”

There’s a lie that perfectionists tell themselves – that working more on something will make it better. What research shows is that “at the task level, spending more time on something doesn’t result in it being better.” This leads to “higher stress, lower satisfaction, less recognition, fewer opportunities and less security.”

There are two types of perfectionism:

  1. Those who move away from failure by subtracting and deleting
  2. Those who seek excellence by ensuring accuracy, correctness and that there must be more.

This translates into high standards for self, standards that are perceived to be socially prescribed and standards that are applied to others. Lynne explains this in the recent college admission scandal where the expectation of self was “I couldn’t possibly not have a child not go to college,” the perceived social expectations, “I’m a celebrity, people expect me to have a child go to college,” and standards of others, “you, my child, are going to college.”

She shared stories of individuals who worked late into the night to have a “perfect workshop” where all the chairs in the room were the same height, and the story of someone who was relaunching their website, but they didn’t have a recent photo, and couldn’t take a photo until their hair was done, and their stylist was out of town for six week.

There needs to be simple, low fidelity version to help things keep going. We as humans, tolerate some errors and omissions, including the Pratfall Effect, which is when we show imperfection and people’s perception of us goes up. When we make mistakes we are perceived to be better, so let’s show our faults.

Lynne shared the concepts of Maximizing and Satisficing. Maximizing is where more is better, the best is better, so we’re constantly gathering information. Satisficing is going for “good enough,” and it helps counter perfectionism.

Also, Lynne brought up the Spotlight Effect, where people are paying less attention to you than you think; they’re worried about their own stuff. You’re seeing the blemishes and the issues because you’re so close to it; others aren’t paying that close attention.

There’s also Wabi Sabi, a Japanese tradition of celebrating the imperfections of the world because they tell a story. When a bowl breaks, the bowl is put back together with beautiful joinery.

We need to make sure we start (which helps procrastination), and we also need to know when to stop (to counter perfectionism).

Then it was time for a couple of work calls, lunch and hanging out in the Women in Agile spot at the Agile Alliance Lounge.

Agile Leadership in a Diverse Cultural Environment – ElMohanned Mohamed

I really liked ElMohanned’s session. He brought together several national cultural frameworks and shared the contexts and dimensions that could impact agile teams who are working with team members from a variety of cultural background. Dimensions included:

  • Power Distance
  • Individualism – Collectivism
  • Uncertainty Avoidance
  • Long Term Orientation
  • Masculinity – Femininity
  • Indulgence – Restraint

Regarding Power Distance, it’s how a culture will expect and accept power. In lower power distance cultures it is acceptable to disagree publicly, in higher power distance cultures, both good and bad ideas are defined by the person in power.

Individualism is the degree of interdependence, the “I” vs “We” mindsets and which comes first.

Cultures that are high on the Uncertainty Avoidant context are threatened by ambiguity, and those that are on the lower end of the context will accept what comes as it comes.

Long Term Orientation focuses on a culture’s importance of tradition and new ways of thinking in the nearer term.

Masculine cultures are more assertive, performance driven and about ambition, Feminine cultures are more about prosperity, wellness and collaboration.

There were two exercises in the session – one to pretend that we were anthropologists and we discovered this new Agile culture made up of Agilists. Where are the beliefs, values, behaviors, artifacts, language and heroes that are in their culture? The second was to discuss how the various contexts help or hinder a team working in an agile way.

It was a really fun and education session, and I really liked how the topics of our differences were discussed in a very matter of fact way and got the discussions going at the tables.

Creating a Distributed Agile Program Management Office – Hendrik Esser

Hendrik and I had exchanged emails on LinkedIn about PMOs two years ago, so I was excited to see his session where he shared the story of the work that he did at Ericsson to create their new PMO.

Highly recommend reviewing his presentation, and below are some of the points that resonated with me:

  • He shared how previously, product management and developers were separated, change was a nightmare to manage (he called their change request process, the “change fighting mechanism.”) and projects were delayed and a lot of drama.
  • He worked with the team to figure out a better way, with a “let’s do this together” mindset. They first tried improving project planning and scope management, which did not lead to the results that they wanted.
  • Then he realized that they needed to get better at managing uncertainty, and stop ignoring it. They decoupled the large monolithic planning up-front and created decentralized teams to be able to adapt as more certainty was gained as the work progressed.
  • They found ways to visualize the uncertainty by using feature burn down charts, and because issues and risks were owned by the team, the team could figure out what to do about managing those issues and risks.
  • A Central Portfolio and Tech Management Team was created, and there was a strong sense of “co-ownership” across the organization and the teams.
  • The teams figured out how much time to dedicate to “system care,” which was tech debt, defects, etc. There were fast feedback loops in the cross functional teams.
  • Organizations are human systems and we need to approach them accordingly. The most important practice is retrospectives.
  • To drive change, they focused on People (Behaviors and Capabilities), Processes and Structures. They created an “eco-system tool” to help figure out what of these areas needed to improve or change to achieve the desired result.

They ended up with a self-stabilizing system, and they are continuing to experiment their way forward.

Another great day; after the sessions, took a few more work calls and have now enjoying dinner on the waterfront, recharging for another full day tomorrow!

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