My Approach to Running an Intervention

On my resume, it says I ran an intervention. I’ll admit, it’s a dramatic term, but damn was it necessary. Certain details aren’t important – I’m not gonna be world-buildin’ here – so I’ll leave out personalities, politics, and a lot of context to jump to the point in the story where I called it: the last Retrospective.

Well, fine. A little context: The team was fractured, which isn’t a fair characterization because… they never fully formed. It was always one team who’d been together for a while, led by “Alice”, and the newer few who joined from a broken up team, led by “Bob”. This was a move by engineering management to create full-stack teams, and this one was building a new product, requiring a new API.

You can see where this is going: Alice & Bob didn’t agree on the API design. Like, really didn’t agree. Things got stagnant. So stagnant, that as their Agile Coach at one Retrospective I, gently, had it. I pointed to Alice & Bob and requested their presence for 45 minutes as the 3 of us over the next day at the local hotel lobby down the block for an intervention.

I had never used that term, let alone run one, but I knew I’d figure it out by then, much better than on the spot, and it went like this…

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My Approach to Re-Centering

I have a little black book.

No, it’s not that.

This is the point of the blog-post-writing process where I decided to search through 10 years of public journaling to see if I’ve covered this topic before. I have, 8 years ago. And I began that post the exact same way. Ugh.

Do I keep typing? Is there additional value I can provide? Have I changed at all in a way that’s worth sharing?

Eh, I’ve got two things for ya.

1 – This practice is still the best thing I can do, at a deeper level than a solid night’s rest, to re-center myself.

2 – I’ve recently recommitted to do this 4-hour activity every quarter, after only doing it a handful of times over the past few years.

Re-read that post. (I just did.)

How do you re-center yourself?

Your Obituary

Beyond being at least half-decent at relating to a few key humans, what do you want it to say on your obituary?

Are there episodes to your life / career?

Are there grand acts of service / contributions to a field?

Are there noble crafts you dedicated yourself to each day?

Is this an exercise that helps you figure out what to do now & next?

What is your legacy?

So yeah. I think about this. A lot.

My Approach to a Quick Retrospective

It’s simple… Do not do a quick Retrospective.

But if y’ain’t got a lotta time… I do a “Fist Of Five“, gather quantitative & qualitative data, pretend for a moment we have 6 fingers on a hand, then capture a piece of Kaizen, all in 3 minutes.

I mean… I could end this post right here.

But I won’t… Remember that insurrection on January 6th? What the fuck was that shit? People were fed lies to fuel all sorts of anger & fear, which led to some of them invading the Capitol?!? Like, holy fucking shit!!! That whole scene represents major failure on a number of fronts, and… We. Need. To. Retrospect. HARD.

Alors… The quicker you Retrospect, the lesser the quality of the actionable item of improvement on the other side, mostly because you don’t give yourself the time to think up and dive down into how to make the next chunk of time better. Also, the shorter the amount of time you’re reflecting on, which is usually the same amount of time ahead of you that you hope to improve, the lesser the potential impact of the Kaizen. Think about it… Are you holding a Retrospective at the end of your day? Then the Kaizen will impact the next day, which will not be as potentially impactful as one you would pick from a weekly Sprint Retrospective, or a quarterly one, or a yearly one (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?). Or one for a 4-year cycle (voting for a US President, anyone?). The LONGER the amount of time you’re retrospecting, the deeper the potential impact of… a piece of Kaizen. Yet, this isn’t what Agile is about… it’s about quicker feedback loops, to more frequently validate if you’re going in the right direction, mechanizing pivot/persevere decisions. Think about it… again… Are you holding a Retrospective at the end of your day? Then that retrospecting mechanizes how you change direction once a day, which will not be as potentially impactful as one for the next half-day (re-centering post-lunch, anyone?), or half-hour (a 1-1 regular meeting, anyone?). Or one for a moment (mindfulness, anyone?). The SHORTER the amount of time you’re retrospecting, the deeper the potential impact of… retrospecting. Oh, and the less risky a piece of Kaizen.

Maybe… I should’ve ended this post back there.

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My Approach to Working Agreements

You probably don’t look at your Working Agreement (“WA”) if you have one. Your team put in the effort, and it’s not fully serving you – what a waste! OR… Your team has never put in the effort, so y’ain’t got one – what an opportunity!

Look… I’m not going to sell you on why having one of these is a useful idea. The following is how I use 45 minutes to get 5-9 agreements a team of 5-9 people can start with, and then we iterate, resulting in a living document.

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