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The Seven Universal Human Emotions

According to one theory, there are seven universal human emotions: anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. At work and sometimes in everyday life these emotions are filtered because of social conditioning. In the West, men are not supposed to feel fear or sadness.  Men who express fear or sadness are called wimps.  Women are not supposed to feel anger or contempt and if they express anger or contempt they are called bitches. This oversimplifies, but it is roughly true. Because certain heart-felt emotions are not considered becoming, not expressible, they are concealed from others.  I call this concealment the distance between  heart and face.  When men feel fear (“I am afraid that I will lose control when transitioning to Scrum”) they may transmogrify…

Why I Don’t Use the Phrase "Continuous Improvement"

Continuous means “uninterrupted in time, sequence, substance, or extent”. Continues improvement sounds so good, doesn’t it? But that is not the sort of improvement experienced by organizations going over to Scrum. In my intro to Scrum classes, students create different types of paper airplanes, measure the distance that they fly, and then modify the planes to make them fly further. The students collect data on the distance that each type of plane flies after each throw. A typical chart looks like this: Plane #1    Plane #2 Throw #1     5                8 Throw #2     3              13 Throw #3   10            20 Throw #4   11              14 Throw #5    10              25 The planes always fly further in the last throw than they did in the first…

Is Your Belief in Scrum's Value Testable?

Can any evidence be marshaled or any argument made which would cause you to conclude that Scrum is not valuable? If you answer yes, then you have a testable belief in the value of Scrum. If no, then you have a non-testable belief in the value of Scrum. I note that here is nothing inappropriate, incorrect or shameful about holding non-testable beliefs. I have a non-testable belief that my family loves me. Knowing whether your belief in Scrum is testable or not can be useful. If I have a non-testable belief in Scrum then when a client asks me to provide data about the utility of Scrum I might say, “I am happy to do that. Know, however, that there is no evidence which will…

The Danger of Steamrolling Emotional State

A manager who is considering implementing Scrum might say, “I’m concerned about the loss of predictability in Scrum. Right now I can predict what the team is going to be doing six months from now because I have a Gantt chart that tells me what they are going to be doing. But once the team becomes self organizing, I lose this predictability.” A Scrum coach might respond, “Actually, you can’t predict what the team is going to be doing six months from now. How often have you been surprised in the past? How often do you have to change the Gantt chart? You don’t have predictability; you just have the illusion of predictability. Scrum is more honest about how much you can predict. You should…

A Structure That Rarely Works

There is a certain pattern of action we humans are almost addicted to. I say “addicted” because we keep acting this way, even though the pattern almost always fails. This pattern of action often shows up in Scrum implementations in large organizations. This structure has three components: a list of nice things to have, one or more enforcement agencies, and a population whose job it is to produce, willingly or not, the things on the list. Consider two examples: – A software development organization develops a list of nice things for its software to have: documentation, unit tests, etc. It creates an enforcement organization, called QA, to ensure that the code produced by the developers has these nice things. In the agile community, we know that this…

What Is A Story Point And What Is It Good For?

What exactly is a story point? Answers to this question are all over the map. I know because I went looking. Maybe a story point is a nebulous unit of time: “Story points represent nebulous units of time.”[7] Maybe a story point measures effort: “Story point is a random measure used by Scrum teams. This is used to measure the effort required to implement a story.” [1] Does a story point measure size and complexity? “So, points are relative measurements of size/complexity, not absolute measurements of duration.”[2] Or perhaps a story point is many things: “…a story point estimate is an amalgamation of effort involved in developing the feature, the complexity of developing it, the risk inherent in it, and so on.”[13] How are story…

Financial Worry: An Impediment to Scrum Adoption

Many people in the United States are broke–and the rest of us are tense. One in four mortgages is underwater[1]. 2008 was the worst year on record for household net worth[2]. Over 20% of households under age 35 have a negative net worth [3]. Adopting agile, however, requires not tension, but slack[4]. I mean psychological slack, emotional slack, resource slack, time slack, and financial slack. Under stress, one’s capacity to change shrinks. A person living paycheck to paycheck may find taking career risks difficult. He or she cannot risk the chance that transitioning to agile will bring about job loss. It’s hard to try things that might fail when so many people are really anxious about their security. Who will announce during a standup meeting…

Make Love, Not Money

Some folks in business are pursuing a strategy that is not taught in business school: The best way to maximize profit is to stop thinking about maximizing profit and, instead, to focus on treating people right. That is to say, the best way to make money is to focus on loving people.Joel Spolsky of Fogbugz fame says it so: “Best Working Conditions -> Best Programmers -> Best Software -> Profit!” [1] Tony Hsieh of Zappos puts it this way: “Culture is our number one priority…Our whole belief is that if we get the culture right then a whole bunch of other stuff like building a brand…will happen naturally on its own.”[2] I want to distinguish this view from two similar perspectives: The first is ’60s…

What I Learned From The Tiger Woods Saga

Members on Agile teams must bring their whole selves[1] to work. They do not split themselves into pieces, bringing some to work and leaving others out. Companies that use Agile methods successfully must help team members work as their whole selves. The recent Tiger Woods “saga” strikes me as a useful example of the problems of splitting the public from the private self. According to the cover story in the February 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, Tiger Woods, guided by an army of advisors, crafted a public image which in significant respects was wholly at odds with his private self. Unfortunately, managing the multi-facetedness of humans in a standard command and control manner is difficult. So, in order to reduce management burdens, many companies require,…

The Eyeglass Skit

Agile coaches do not tell the team how to build software. Agile teams are self managing. Whenever anyone tells the team how to resolve an impediment, a little bit of the team’s soul dies. The Eyeglass Skit is a great way to communicate this important fact.