Agile Gems

Below is a list of short (fewer than 1000 word) agile articles that substantially improved my understanding of agile.  This list can be edited here: http://twtpick.in/56.  At this link, articles can be upvoted, downvoted, and added.  Over time, if you participate, this list might become something like a consensus view of great, short articles in the agile literature.

1. “This Is Not Like That” by Lyssa Adkins. Argues that agile concepts should be understood directly instead of by analogy.  http://agileanarchy.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/this-is-not-like-that/

2. “Two Forgotten Agile Values: Discipline and Skill” by Brian Marick.  Notes that team members often lack the skills they need.  http://www.exampler.com/discipline-and-skill.html

3. “The Essence of Scrum” by Tobias Mayer.  A contribution to the principle-centered view of Scrum.  http://agilethinking.net/essence-of-scrum.html

4. “Agile: Is, Is Not, May Be” by Ron Jeffries.  Takes a crystal clear position on the importance of developing software in every iteration.  http://xprogramming.com/articles/jatagileisisnotmaybe/

5. “Flaccid Scrum” by Martin Fowler.  Spurred the creation of Scrum developer certification programs. http://martinfowler.com/bliki/FlaccidScrum.html

6. “Measure UP” by Mary Poppendieck.  Emphasizes the importance of measuring productivity at the team level.  http://www.poppendieck.com/measureup.htm

7. “Escalation is Killing Agile — Can We Please Stop It?” by Jean Tabaka.  A plea to reduce the violence in conversations about different ways to be agile.  http://www.rallydev.com/agileblog/2009/10/escalation-is-killing-agile-can-we-please-stop-it/

The Milk of Human Kindness

To understand others and to be understood.  To be open to the beam of light that emanates from another’s soul.  To be connected deeply, so that we understand the feelings and needs of others and they understand our feelings and needs.  To sense someone’s “no” even when they’re saying “yes.”  These are some of the goals of deep communication.

In Scrum, we teach the value of collaboration, of building on each other’s work.  Before collaboration comes cooperation (which means working in the same direction), and before cooperation comes communication [2].  Communication, cooperation, and collaboration can be considered ways of being, but they are also acquirable skills. The best approach to communication that I have found is called nonviolent communication (NVC)[3].

Unlike many well-known communication systems, such as Crucial Conversations[1], NVC was not developed by management consultants with the goal of maximizing profit.  It was developed by Marshall Rosenberg who, as a youth, witnessed violent race riots in Detroit and wondered whether there was a way for all people to communicate without evaluation and judgment.  NVC’s uses an observations-feelings-needs-requests framework.  It’s the best way I know to communicate in charged situations.  I have found it rewarding to describe NVC to Scrum teams and suggest that they drop into NVC whenever a conversation becomes challenging.  It has been one of the most life-giving gifts I have provided as a Scrum coach.

[1] Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Patterson, Grenny, and McMillan.
[2] At a CSM training, I heard Tobias Mayer make an observation similar to this one.
[3] For additional information on NVC see http://www.cnvc.org/.  The standard introductory book is Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

Jaime Phillips

I learned today that James “Jaime” Phillips, an outstanding member of the Boston Scrum community, recently passed away.  I met Jamie a couple of years ago when he was working on spreading Scrum values and practices at Picis.  Whenever I saw Jamie at Scrum events in the Boston area he was always happy, enthusiastic, and smiling.   Jamie once told me that he refused to work on any team that was not agile.