Perfect Feedback

One of my favourite tools for giving and receiving feedback is the Perfection Game. It is a powerful tool to give constructive feedback in a non-threatening way. It transforms feedback from an attack or personal judgement into a constructive act of jointly improving software, articles, conference sessions, blog entries…

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The fuzzy thing called lean

I’ve been asked to do some presentations and workshops around lean and software development, which gives rise to some reflections on what’s currently going on around ‘lean’ (thanks to Willem for the good conversations on this topic and for pushing me to publish this blog entry ;-) )

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Mañana, mañana, …

Looking for ways to get more done with less stress, I recently bought and read Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. I’ve started experimenting with it and I like it so far. The Do It Tomorrow system is simple, but not necessarily easy (because it’s about changing your habits). It’s based on clear principles and takes a systems view – focusing on making problems in the underlying systems visible and tackling root causes instead of being just a clever trick. It suits me better than e.g. the Getting Things Done system.

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Mastering Projects

Would you like to get more out of your projects? Are you juggling multiple projects at the same time? Are you an ‘accidental’ project manager, managing projects in addition to your ‘regular’ job? Are you working as a Scrum master, agile coach, or agile project manager and your projects refuse to go by the book? Are you involved in complex, cross-functional projects that you want to bring to a successful end? Or are you just interested in challenging ideas about project work?

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Piecemeal Growth

I’ve decided to leave PricewaterhouseCoopers by November 1st and become a full time in(ter)dependent coach/trainer/consultant.

Through my company Piecemeal Growth, I can help you to get a better grip on your projects, to improve project cycle time, to reduce the number of defects, and to make your IT more nimble and able to cope with continuous change. I have a background in agile and lean software development, systems thinking, organizational learning, and (open space) facilitation.

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We’re in this together

Willem has written a nice blog entry about eXtreme Customer Collaboration – about getting into the skin of the customer and operating as a whole team. We’ve had some discussions lately about the different roles in e.g. Scrum and the effect that these roles have on teams. Scrum and Extreme Programming distinguish explicit roles for the customer/product owner and developers/rest of the team. This distinction helps to think explicitly about how to fulfill certain important responsibilities in a project. The pitfall here is taking it too far, so that people start focusing on their own defined role only and state things like “that’s not my responsibility”. The team slips into an us vs. them mentality.

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CITCON Europe 2007

In October, I’ll participate in the CITCON Europe 2007 conference in Brussels. It’s a 1 1/2 day Open Space conference on continuous integration and testing. It will take place on Friday 19 October (starting in the evening) and Saturday 20 October, and it’s free! It’s part of a world wide series of Open Space conferences on continuous integration and testing.

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Sustainability and risk management

Recently, I discoverd Tim Beck’s Pliant Alliance blog and I’ve been enjoying his posts. In Delivering Business Value he writes about being pragmatic with agile (and other) practices – if it works and delivers business value, keep doing it; if it doesn’t work, stop doing it and try something else. I agree and I’d like to add that it’s not only about delivering business value, but also about sustainability and risk management.Sustainability – do your practices help you to take into account not only the short term but also the long term? Will they help you to keep on delivering business value at a steady pace? Often you can get away with cutting corners for the first release. Maintainability problems will however catch up with you and it will become harder and harder to keep on delivering value.

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XP Day Benelux 2006 – call for sessions

This year we’re going to organize the XP Day Benelux conference for the fourth time. It will be held in Elewijt Center, in Mechelen (Belgium), the location of the XP Day Benelux 2004 and Agile Open conferences.XP Day Benelux provides an excellent opportunity to share experiences and learn about Extreme Programming, agile software development, and quality software development in general. The conference focuses on practical knowledge, real-world experience and active participation of everyone.

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Bullshit 2.0

While reading blogs, IT newspapers and other media, I encounter a lot of nonsense about software development, software processes and software quality management. During the Presentation Zen session at the Agile Open 2006 unconference, Willem mentioned the idea of starting a presentation with a slide with just Bullshit on it, which will definitely catch the attention of the audience. I think SOA and Web 2.0 are good bullshit concepts. Last week, I read two examples:The first one was a short article in the NRC Next newspaper of Monday May 8th about Web 2.0. It is very badly written: it looks like the author heard something about Web 2.0, googled a bit, found a few words and phrases in blogs, and wrote the article without doing proper research.

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Agile Open 2006

I’m back from the Agile Open conference, still processing everything and recovering a bit. It was quite intense – two days might appear quite short, but is more than enough for such an event.There were 26 participants, a nice mix of people from France, Belgium, UK, and The Netherlands. Everyone who registered, has turned up. Among the participants there were quite a number of people who had participated last year and who came this year again, because of the good experience they had at the previous one.

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People vs processes – a false dichotomy?

Pascal Van Cauwenberghe writes about People problem or Process problem? – he identifies a conflict between all problems are people problems (one of Jerry Weinberg’s statements) and all problems are process problems (according to The Toyota Way). Using an evaporating cloud he concludes that every problem is a people problem AND a process problem.I have written about process before and I’d like to take it a step further: I doubt whether is the distinction between people and process is useful – I find it a false dichotomy.

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From Fear to Fun

At the Dutch Open conference in November 2005, I met Arie de Geus, the author of the book The Living Company. He held a presentation about Innovation and Sustainability (the conference theme).Arie has worked for the Shell Strategic Planning Group. He talked about playing is learning and learning through playing, based on his experiences at Shell. He has also been influenced by people like Jean Piaget. Playing is experimenting with a representation of reality. In many disciplines, people play around with ideas, models, concepts, before taking decisions. When engineers are going to build a new oil platform for instance, they build lots of models and (computer) simulations that are thoroughly tested and stressed, until they know enough to take the right decisions and build the actual oil platform.

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Balancing Act at XP Day France and SPA 2006

In March, Willem and I will be running the Balancing Act – Simple Tools for Feedback, Courage and Communication session at XP Day France (23-24 March in Paris, the first XP Day in France) and at the SPA2006 conference (26-29 March in St. Neots, UK, formerly know as the OT conference). At SPA2006, Emmanuel Gaillot will co-facilitate.The Balancing Act session is about a number of people tools based on the work of the family therapist Virginia Satir. The session is highly experiental and intensive – almost no presentation, but a lot of doing, playing, experiencing and reflecting on your experience and your feelings. The session helps you to take a step in the transition from fear to fun in interacting with others (I’ll elaborate on the fear to fun theme in a next blog entry).

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Risk Analysis

Last week, I facilitated a risk analysis session for a customer. It was a very enjoyable and useful session, which has resulted in a list of important risks (with estimated probability and impact) and corresponding actions we are going to take.Good risk analysis and risk management is still uncommon on IT projects. One of the reasons is that thinking about risks is scary – people prefer to think of project success instead of all the things that could go wrong, or people are so scared of possible project failure that they avoid anything that even touches on risks, problems or failure. This can lead to the risks and the necessary mitigation and contingency actions becoming increasingly undiscussable, increasing the probability and impact of the risks, increasing the chances of project failure – the fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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It’s no incident

In last week’s Automatiseringgids (a Dutch IT newspaper), I read an article about learning by playing (spelenderwijs leren in Dutch) as an effective tool to train people in ITIL (using a simulation of a Formula 1 race).Learning by playing is something I believe in and which I apply in workshops and courses. It was also one of the themes that emerged from the SoL Dutch Open conference we held in November 2005 – playing is learning, learning by playing – see also the description of the Fear to Fun session on the conference wiki (in Dutch).

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Planning paradoxes (1)

A lot of project proposals and initial project plans I see around me are based on linear models, assuming that IT projects are predictable and that we can predict a single outcome. In terms of the Cynefin model, projects are assumed to be in the Known domain. Many IT projects are however in the Knowable or Complex domain. The research oriented projects I’m involved in are usually in the Complex domain.In the Knowable domain you can use tools like risk analysis, scenario planning and set-based development as alternatives for standard linear planning. In the Complex domain, agile, feedback oriented project management approaches like rolling wave planning and working iteratively are applicable.

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Call for Sessions for XP Day Benelux 2005

This year, the XP Day Benelux conference will take place on 17 & 18 November 2005, in Rotterdam, The NetherlandsXP Day Benelux is a two day international conference about agile software development, intended for software development and business people from all walks of life. It provides a good opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing experiences and is suited for both experienced participants and novices. The focus of this conference is on practical knowledge and real-world experience.

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Second Dutch Agile Seminar

On April 20th, we organized the second Dutch Agile Seminar in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands. The theme was Agile Management. There were two presentations: Hans Freriks talked about the DSDM perspective on Agile Management; Erik Bos explained how working agile makes it easy to get a CMM level 2 certification with just a little additional work. Both talks generated a lot of discussion.

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Back from Agile Open 2005

Last weekend we organized the Agile Open conference. I found it a wonderful experience organizing it and being there. There were about 23 participants, which was alright for a conference like this. I think we can scale it up somewhat to a maximum of 45 participants.

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Systems thinking in Germany

Friday, I got notice that two systems thinking sessions have been accepted for the XP Days Germany Together with Willem van den Ende and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe I’m going to run a systems thinking workshop and together with Willem the Who has dropped the ball? Understanding Team dynamics session, which is a playful introduction to systems thinking.It’s nice to see an increasing interest in systems thinking at conferences like SPA (formerly know as OT ), XP2004 and the XP Days.

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Punished by rewards

I started reading Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn (thanks to Rachel for the tip!). It’s (another) very interesting and relevant book. The book discusses why the use of rewards and punishment as means of motivating people doesn’t work. It’s very readable, but it also has a thorough scientific basis. Although I’ve read about one third, I really recommend it.

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Systems Thinking Resource: Mental Model Musings

I’d like to recommend the Mental Model Musings website by Gene Bellinger. This systems thinking website contains a lot of interesting stories in which systems thinking and causal loop diagramming are applied to all kinds of (organisational) situations. The website also provides clear and concise introductions to systems thinking and concepts like balancing loops, self-reinforcing feedback loops, causal loop diagramming, and simulation.

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Work harder, not smarter

This Thursday, I read in the newspaper that a German candy manufacturer is letting its employees work 60 hours a week (6 days of 10 hours!) for 3 months, because otherwise the company would have to close.

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