Aghhh

 

In 1997 I’m teaching a course on our product. It was a tool that allowed insurance brokers to manager their clients. We had integrated office into it. So I explain the integration of excel and one lady is clearly annoyed and starts to complain about excel and how her life was so much easier before she had to use excel.
It’s almost time for a break, so I say lets take a break now and you show me what you need to do with excel and why it’s such a bad tool.

Glad that someone finally listens to her, she opens excel and puts in 10 numbers and then gets her calculator out of her pocket, adds the numbers together and puts the result below the 10 numbers. 
She had been forced to use Excel already for a year or 2. She had been complaining all the time. And no one took the time to listen to her and explain that excel could do the calculation for her. When I showed her that excel could do that, she looked at me with a look I never will forget. A combination of pure ecstasy that the tool could help her and even more anger that no one ever showed her that. 

>> if you use a tool, yet keep working as before and don’t get the explanation of why and how, a new tool won’t help you much.

And this lady? She took a one week course in Excel, became a big Excel fan and eventually the biggest supporter inside her own company. 

All because of 5 minute of listening to her. 

This is why I try to keep listening to the people in the companies that are “ASKED” to go agile…

As much as I like reading, my deepest way of learning, is by doing.
Yet if I have to learn everything from my own doing, that would be a local optimisation.

One of the reasons I like to do pair work , is that by pairing with another coach, I learn by tapping into her knowledge/brain. This year, I’m working with a large client, together with +15 coaches. And next to pairing, we also teach each other by swapping (war) stories.

The last months, I wondered if other people would be interested in these kind of stories and would like a community book with tips for coaching.

So I have two questions for you:
– Would you be interesting in buying such a book?
you can tell me at the leanpub waiting page
– Are you coaching people and would you like to share a story or two?

please leave your name and e-mail here

As I have already a large WIP with current community project, I will only start this one, when I have many people interested in the book, both from a reader perspective and a writer perspective.

This year it’s 10 years ago that I started working full time as what we now call an agile coach.
Agile coaching is change management, it’s helping people from where they are to somewhere else.
That somewhere else, is a place neither of us know.
Partly because I don’t know yet enough what is their current place, partly because they don’t understand what agile really means.

 

So one of the typically questions I get is: give me an example.
In these 10 years I have worked for the industry automating food factories, healthcare, postal service, banking, insurance, energy services, consumer service and a few more.
When I gave examples in the first years, I was giving examples about one of these companies I helped.

Yet, when I speak for a few hundred people, most are not in the same industry as most of my examples. And even when they were in the same industry, people came with excuses why my example was wrong for their company. For me that was fine. My examples were never intended to be used as best practises in your company. Their are intended to inspire people, so that they can adapt them and find their own solutions.

So gradually over the years I started to use a different story telling technique.

Most of my examples are now about my family.
Because I consider my audience smarter then me and capable of translating examples of my personal life, to their work situation and find their own solution.

I have the impression this works better.

yes, there still are laggards who don’t want to change and think that some of the new idea’s in this fast changing agile world are crazy and won’t work in their company.
That’s fine. I prefer to spend my energy helping people who want to change, that is still most part of the world.
(And they prefer to spend their time with something they know. That is fine too.)

Look at the picture above: I’m pair working with my daughter. Who is the expert on the picture? yes it’s my daughter. Although I have build a lot more castles then she has, and I have a lot of years more experience, she was really the expert. Next time you are pair-programming , think about my daughter and what you can learn from her …
I don’t even have to explain you what you can learn from this situation. I know you are smarter then me and you will find the lessons you need.

Or as my father says: you don’t have to believe in the sea to get wet, you do have to get in to get wet. Meaning, what you learn of a situation is related to the energy you put in.

If this post inspires you, please share your personal stories. How do you apply agile in your life?

This is the video of my presentation with Joppe at Agile Eastern Europe 2015.

The slides can be found here

The last couple of weeks, I have been in a few discussion (on and offline) around the salary of a scrummaster and an agile coach. (Some inspired by our community book on hiring)
In one of these discussions a European company asked me what would be a good salary for their scrummaster. In another a great agile coach (and dear friend of me) wanted to work as a freelance coach in a new country and had no idea what was an acceptable daily rate. Another company was about to start an agile transition and wanted to find the right balance between paying a decent fee and hiring as many great coaches as possible.

The problem that all these people had, was the only decent information they found, came from the USA and did not feel adapted to the rest of the world. And my personal information is, well is just about me and my friends.  And then my friends Sam & Karen launched their salary survey for South-Africa. I thought, why not launch a similar survey but then globally.

And so I did. you can find my globally survey here

Update:
I received a few questions about the survey.

– Who has acces to the raw data?
Me, Karen, Sam. In the future I will probably ask my father to help me with the statistics.

– Where will you publish these statistics?
The statistics will be send out to the mailing list and then published on my blog.
I will only publish data about countries I have at least 10 people. Otherwise it feels like not statistically relevant. And it helps to keep more privacy.

– What about totally transparency of agile?
It’s always a trade off between transparency and privacy. I know that some people hoped on full acces to this data. I also know that others are really scared about giving data about their income away.

– What countries do you have data on?

Australia (<5), Austria(<5), Belgium(16), Brazil(<5), Canada(9), Chile(<5), Denmark(<5), Finland(<5), France(9), Germany(10), Hungary(<5), India(<5), Israel(<5), Italy(8), Latvia(<5), Lesotho(<5), Luxembourg (<5), Netherlands(6), New Zealand (<5), Poland(<5), South-Africa (<5), Spain (<5), Sweden (<5), UK (8), Ukraïne (6), USA (19).

Most countries don’t have 10 people yet. So I hope more people will make publicity for it. As I really want to publish some nice data.

Feel free to add your question about the survey below. 

yves

For years my friend Johanna has been pushing me and bugging me and mostly been telling me nicely: yves you should set up a mailing list.
And every time I was convinced, I ended up creating another interactive mailing list to discuss topics I like. Because I preferred interaction over a one way mailing list. Over the years I created these discussion lists.

agile games
Visual problem solving
– Collaboration of topic
Pairworking
CoachRetreat

Until some time ago, leanpub – my favourite publishing tool- decided to no longer support their mailing feature and integrated mailchimp instead.
And thus I created my first real mailinglist and integrated that with the books I was selling.

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This is a video I think all change agents should see.
Quote= “Once you have a rigid way of thinking in your heard, you can’t change that, even if you want that.

What is even more interesting, is when he was able, oh well just watch the video….

I just got back from the first edition of GentM 2015. Today the topic was Social Togetherness.
A topic that I expected to be close to my heart because of one of the speakers Frank Van Massenhove.

I don’t know Frank personally, yet I have heard his story many times and it keep inspiring me.
For those who who don’t know Frank, he turned (one of the) worst FOD (ministries – is that an English word?) around to become one of the hottest places in Belgium to work for.
Inspired by semco, the new working etc…

Many people felt inspired by the talk, yet what also happened was that a few people wondered yeah but would it also work (fill in anything you want…)

Now I have been working as an agile coach for ten years, and more specifically the last 5 years helping large to huge organisations in that role. And then my role is partly a change agent.
Helping to turn an organisation into a new way of working, with a big mindset shift.

I helped companies around EMEA and at the same time I spoke at conferences in many different countries.

Two of the most common reactions I get are:

– yes this is fine in (name another country/company ), but this would not work in (the country /company of the speaker)
– yes this is all nice in theory, but in the real world...

And yes, I have to admit, when I read some books, blogs or hear about company x or y, that I think mm this would not work here.
Well, that never is about the other people, that is me being scared of trying.
And so when you think, what I heard at GentM, or what I read about Semco, or saw in the video of spotify, stop thinking it won’t work here. But look for the smallest step you (not your company, you), can make in that direction.

Thus this mean, I’m never frustrated about where my clients are and the speed they go?
No, I’m always frustrated. I always want to go faster. And that is good because that is my job. The moment I’m happy with where a client is, that means I stayed too long.

The story that Frank told today, is where he is now, and yes it’s the good part. I’m sure there were moments he was frustrated, I’m sure that he still has things he wants to improve and he might even feel they just started. That is not the point.

The first big change assignment I took in a large organisation, I felt frustrated about the speed. I felt frustrated about how little we achieved. I thought I was frustrated because I compared them to what I knew in other companies. It took me a few years to realise that was not really the case.

I compared my clients with:

a imaginary team existing of  
– the best developers from the best teams I worked with
– the best tester from a great team I worked with
– a great scrummaster (who is now working as an agile coach)
– a Product owner that is a combination of two great PO’s I worked with, mixed with the person who taught my PO training and wrote one of the best books on user stories.
– …

mixed with stories I heard at conferences, read online, and hopes I have build up over the years.

so really that is not fair to anyone. None of the teams I have worked with or any of my colleague coaches, will win this comparison. All teams will look pale compare to this imaginary team.

What I started to do instead, is compare my clients to how they were when I joined.
F ex: at my current client, we now have the support of the CIO. That is something that I consider necessary for the kind of change we are trying to achieve now. And I have to admit, one year ago, I did not think we would have this already now. That is a huge achievement.

I can choose to complain about all the possible roadblocks and thing that go slower then I want, and yes I sometimes do that, because I need to let go of my frustration.

yet I love my job, because I am asked to help people to find a better working world.

Just as Frank, I meet a lot of good people that are capable of doing extraordinary things, if we allow them to think. And I know they are capable, because they do it. Unfortunately some of them don’t do it at work, but do it in some kind of volunteer work. And I’m totally not against volunteer work (I’m a coach for coderdojo, and I love helping kids discovering technology), yet I don’t like it when people do voluntary work because they can’t do what they would love to do at work.

 

Ask people their values, give them a why and trust they will figure out the how. (After all you hired them because you thought they were smart.)
Basically treat them as adults.

PS If you think they are behaving as children, ask me at the next GentM, about some of the times I treated my children as adults and what that resulted in… (Thanks Lamazone to ask me the questions that reminded me of these stories…)

The train station in my home town was finished in 1913.

A train station that is 100 years old that means that it’s no longer adapted to the current needs. Meaning, they have to replace the station. Yet a nice building of 100 years old, also means that the building itself is “protected”. (Meaning they can’t destoy the look and feel of certain parts. )
These two together give some interesting dynamics. The project to replace the trainstation is a very interesting project. In this blog post, I’m going to focus on the project management part. It’s interesting because the train station will not close down while they are re-building the station. Or should I say refactoring the trainstation?

Let me explain what they are doing. (If you understand dutch you might want to watch their introduction video)

The original building they will preserve. As the building is part of the unesco world heritage (or something similar)

Yet everything else, all the train tracks, all the platforms and the tunnel below, will be replaced.
Personally I don’t believe in recreating software. Every project I know that rewrote software from scratch, was a near disaster. I once helped to coach teams that would create a software platform, to replace a few websites. (This company had a website for every country they were active in.) The decision was taken a few years before I came to replace everything. They did not want to create a link between the old website and the new one. So replacing bit-by-bit would not be possible. They considered that linking the two security systems would be too expensive. Unfortunatly when they wanted to put the new website life, a lot was not ready. And to keep their deadline, they decided (as I had predicted, 2 years before) to still link the two security systems. Only now that was quickly done, and created it’s own kind of problems.

 

All this to say I prefer to replace software bit by bit. Sprint after sprint, or week after week. I was on a train ride with one of the managers of that same company and we passed this train station, and he proudly said; well agile can’t work for everything, they can’t use agile to re-build this trainstation. I told him that they were actually doing very agile stuff. They had killed platform 12 and kept the whole station running while doing that.

(Ok there was a shutdown for a day or so.)

 

The whole rebuilding of the station will take about 20 years. That can’t be agile.Or can it?  For me agile is about adapting to change. And interaction with your customers.

The replacement of the first platform (12) took much longer than expected. 22 months instead of 18 months.  The engineer who explained all this said: if we would have been able to stop the station it would  have been done earlier. Although I don’t know anything of building trainstations, I doubt that. Most projects take longer as expected. Especially when you are sticking to a plan that is not working. And this is where we come to the most interesting part. They did not stick to the original plan.
IMG_2859

 

For platform 10 & 11, they decided to change the plan. And instead of starting to build the platform from -1 and build it up till +1. They decided to start at ground level (level 0)  and build down and up almost at the same time. That way, they can keep their deadline of 18 months for level +1 (where the platforms are.) I am not sure if this also means they will make the deadline for level -1. And that is not really important, the biggest value for the trainstation is level +1 and level 0. If I remember correct, the lower levels are shops and parking spaces.

 

It’s important to notice that the way the station will look like, won’t change. It’s the techniques that they use to get there. (and probably some of the supporting structures, will be different.)

 

Like any big building that is created, they have a team of architects that are working full time. On a day to day basis this team takes decision on the infrastructure (read architecture) of the building. They don’t stick to a hug premade plan. The adapt.
If this can be done for a trainstation in use, why would that be a problem for your software?