Archive for July, 2011

The next person on the Who is series, is Bob Marshall, better known as @flowchainsensei. (Wikipedia has never heard of our bob)

I think that Bob is the only person I personally invited that I think I have not met in person. I don’t need to. Bob is so vocal on his twitterfeed, I know who he is and thinks. Thanks to Bob I know the RightShifting movement. He is also one of the few agile people who has an evil counterpart on twitter. (I guess that is a side effect of his clear, to the point statements.) Out of respect for Bob I don’t link to the account.

Bob9c

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Most folks in London know  I ride a motorcycle, but that may not be apparent to folks farther afield. Further than that though, I also consider myself a biker, which is more of a lifestyle choice and mindset than simple a choice of transportation mode.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

Actually, I don’t consider myself “in IT”. Both because I don’t believe software development should have ever been co-located/conflated with IT, and because most of what I do relates to people.
As to an alternate life-path,  most likely I would have become an industrial model-maker. I did have a thriving commercial model-making business whilst (still) at school, plus a job offer back then from the UK’s leading industrial model-making company. I have yet to begin my second career – although I have long had it picked-out – being an intention to start a new “religion”. :Q (And no, Rightshifting is not a religion, as fas as I’m concerned, at least).

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge – for thirty years and more, until recently – was to understand just why software development was (and remains) so universally poor. Now I feel I have uncovered the answer to that mystery.

So my biggest challenge presently is to find a means to share that insight in ways that folks can use, practically, for the advantage of everyone working in software development, and, given the near-ubiquity of software today – for society at large, too. This recent new challenge has been a good thing because it has driven me to long and deep study of human motivation, individual and group psychology, neuroscience, and such like.

What drives you ?
People, people and people. Tech and gadgets are neat toys, or intellectual puzzles, but seeing people realise even a part of their innate potential is what gets me out of bed every morning (literally and metaphorically).

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement is not really for me to claim. Others may be better placed to proffer an answer. But if pressed, I might reply that my biggest achievement is what other folks who have worked with me say about my contribution to their lives.

What is the last book you have read?

Tricky, given I have about fifteen started-but-not-yet-finished books in my iPad and another ten or so in my “legacy” (dead tree) pile.
The one that most immediately springs to mind is Margaret Wheatley‘s excellent “Leadership and the New Science“.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

How about “why do so many business improvement projects (ie agile adoptions) fail?” And the answer is “because folks fail to recognize the true nature of the challenges involved, and thus use inappropriate approaches”.

Who do you think I should ask next?

There are so many fine folks in e.g. the agile, lean and twitter communities, I’m sure I’d offend many by omission. But despite such risk,  I’d suggest maybe Benjamin Mitchell, Grant Rule, or David Joyce.

The next person in the Who is serie, is Liz Keogh, also know as Lunivore. I met Liz when I was working in London at the end of 2009, when we had a great talk at an XTC event. She left a big impression on me, and I was not surprised to see her win the Gordon Pask Award in august 2010. I’m looking forward to her book on BDD
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
I went to Cambridge University for a year. It didn’t work out. I left by mutual agreement. I’m glad I went; my family were pretty serious about my education and I would always have wondered, “What if?” if I hadn’t. Afterwards I went to Bath, where I had a fantastic time and got on well. I learnt that your dreams aren’t always in the places where you think. Now I like to look around, wherever I happen to be, rather than drive myself forward all the time.
If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
I hope I would have found my way into psychology and hypnotherapy. That whole field – the human brain, and how it’s programmed; how we program ourselves and mis-program ourselves – it’s even more fascinating than programming computers. There are so many things we take for granted about the way we think and the nature of our consciousnesses, and we’re so often wrong about those things.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge is my energy, both physical and mental. I get tired if I’m training or coaching all day. Realising that has helped me recognise the need to only work part of the time, and take some time out for myself. That’s made me more effective when I’m working, which has allowed me to earn higher rates, which lets me take time out. I look back on what it was like to do this five days a week, and how much I was just floundering, and I laugh.

What drives you?
My parents have been a big influence on my life, particularly my mum. I’ve always wanted them to be proud of me and what I do. More recentlyI’ve driven myself. I feel a responsibility to my communities because of the Pask award, and because I’m privileged to hang out with some amazing people who have amazing ideas and are too busy to spread them
to everyone else. London is a wonderful place in that respect. Maybe London drives me.

What is your biggest achievement?
I wrote a fantasy fiction book in my early twenties. I even sent it out to agents and got some positive feedback, but no takers. Lots of people say “Oh, I’m going to write a book”, and if – when!  Dan North and I finish the BDD book, that will be an even bigger achievement, but I have already done it once.
What is the last book you have read?

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
“What’s the secret to eternal happiness?”

Real Options. Having choices, and living your life in a way which keeps giving you more choice, is wonderfully freeing and leads to some surprising outcomes. My next challenge is to be ready for anything, while travelling light – I still have a very big suitcase!

Who do you think I should ask next?
Chris Matts. I’d love to see his answers to some of these questions. His perspective on life and people is unlike anyone else’s I’ve come across, and some of his ideas are phenomenal – Real Options is only one of them.
Dan North created BDDand taught it to me – he’s also a good choice. Chris took it further, though; it’s his ideas which have spawned most of my recent work and presentations, and I often find that I’m using his words when I teach BDD. His ideas are deceptively simple; he explains, and then you think about it, and the next time you look round your whole world has changed without you noticing. Every time he comes up with something new I find myself thinking – what will he come up with next?

 

Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Liz’s answer to the question: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
The next person in my series of Who is, is Ralph Miarka. Last year I worked with Ralph for an international contract.
In contrast with my other coaches collegues, I  never met Ralph before we worked together. That was kind of scary. Will it work? Will I like him? Will he like me? Will our styles match ? Will our styles be different enough?
After the bumpy ride this (every?) coaching assignment was, I can clearly say yes to all of these.(Ok the wil he like me, I’m doing a calculated guess.)

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

My dad, certainly, has influenced my in who I am with two things he kept saying and asking:
  • Write it down to be clear what you want
  • How do you know this is the right solution?

On the one hand I did a PhD in formal specification based on that and on the other hand, I kept asking the second question also to all my students and I keep asking it today as a coach.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
Difficult – I wanted to be in IT since I was twelve, when I joined the local computer club. Thinking about it, I did consider becoming a lawyer or a teacher, too 🙂

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

There are many big challenges in my life. One is, for example, to unlearn so many things that served me well before. For example, at school I was rewarded for giving very quickly the correct answer. Now I want to listen to people and support them in finding their most suitable approach towards a solution. I learn to be more patient and also to reflect on my own behavior more often.

What drives you ?

I’m passionate about development. That’s personal development as well as development in IT. I like to develop and I like to support others to develop. I thought I’m a teacher but then I realized that I’m an enabler for learners. And I like to see results. Finally, I’m happy when I hear appreciation for what I did. Because I like that I try to incorporate giving as much appreciation as possible in my life, too.

What is your biggest achievement?
Gosh – this question is too big for me. I achieved so much and I still want to do so much…
Getting the PhD was great though having a student coming up to me on his graduation, telling me that my seminars in the first year course defined how he continued to study was even more valuable and emotional. Taking over a project as project manager (not feeling prepared for it) and then being part of a team that excels and contributing to it, that was also great. Most of those team members are still good colleagues and friends.

What is the last book you have read?
“Kostenfaktor Angst” (“Cost factor Fear”) by Winfried Panse and Wolfgang Stegmann – about the costs (and benefits) of fear in the workplace

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

Why do you find it difficult to answer the question: “What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?”

Good question. There is something about the meta-question… and now I realized what it is. It’s the word “Should”. I don’t think you “should” ask me anything.

You “could” ask me a myriad of things though.

  • Starting from “What’s the current weather in Vienna?” to which I’d say “Sunny”
  • or you “could” ask me “Why do you find it valuable to do a Master’s degree in Systemic Coaching?” to which I could answer: “To answer this in depth would require a bit of time. I developed an interest in this topicwhen I was at University where I took a minor in Psychology. I’m curious about learning why we humans behave and interact as we do. I’m interested supporting people to uncover their own potential. This education also helps me to unlock more of my own potential. I find this program to be fun and very engaging too. Sure, I also hope to increase my market value through an increased set of skills.”
  • or “I heard you broke your rip recently. How did you do that?” and I’d answer with a big smile: “I tried to learn to fly and I didn’t succeed.”, hoping that would leave you puzzled for a moment 🙂

So, as I said, I “could” think of many questions you “could” ask me but I don’t think you “should” ask me anything 🙂

Who do you think I should ask next?

David Harvey and Joseph Pelrine – both acted and act as great mentors for me

The next person in our “Who is” series is Rachel Davies. Not the actrice Rachel Davies but the agile coach Rachel Davies. I met her at XPday Benelux 2004. I followed lots of  her sessions since. The session that I remember most is her Keeping the furniture police at bay. So much I invited her and Emmanuel Gaillot to do a Retrospective workshops for PairCoaching.net. If you like any of my ideas on Retrospectives, thank Rachel. You can do so by buying her book. (Ok I’m exaggerating, I learned a lot from Agile Retrospectives as well.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Even though I have spent most of my career working as a programmer, my degree is in Philosophy. Through studying Philosophy, I learned not to become too attached to ideas, to question assumptions and practice shifting perspectives to reach a deeper understanding. This practice is useful when trying to understand the underlying beliefs that people hold and not to let those differences get in the way of working with them.

Another aspect of my life is that I come from a family of keen gardeners. As a child I learned to identify all sorts of wild flowers when we went for walks. I find plants of all kinds very beautiful and love to watch them change and grow through the seasons. I particularly love old trees because I like to reflect on how things life has changed as they have grown up around us. I also like to seek out ancient stone circles because I like to think about how people walked and lived in the same places hundreds of years ago.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I’m not really sure. When I finished university I realised that there was not a very obvious career path for someone with a degree in Philosophy. I applied for all sorts of jobs with no luck. I decided to study software engineering and was really excited with how creative it is.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge is not too take on too many things to work on, especially volunteering for conference organising roles. This year I have been a chair of XP2011 conference in Spain, helping Manav Mehan with UK Agile Coaches Gathering and also Open Jam at Agile2011 I have a passion about getting people together to share experiences and conferences are a great way to energise people and encourage change. Even though, conference organising may seem a diversion from my client work, sometimes it puts me in touch with new people to work with. I often get free registration but this doesn’t really compensate for all the hours spent on emails and skype calls. I think the real benefit is working with a team of other volunteers to create a special experience that will boost people’s energy around Agile development. When I chaired Agile2008 in Toronto, I really felt like a Product Owner shaping something new.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

I think you might ask how much time I spend coaching these days. The answer is not much. It’s been about six months since I coached a team. I am puzzling over this because I do enjoy coaching teams and would like that to be a bigger proportion of what I do. It seems that the role of agile coach has now become more ubiquitous and in the UK is now something that companies source through job agencies. The number of years experience required seems to be less and perhaps people think I might be too expensive because I am a book author not actually the case 🙂 I am enjoying running workshop style training courses for coaches who want to improve their skills in coaching teams – the next one will be 25 August.

What drives you ?

I hate to see people asked to do pointless things in the name of process. I love to see a people collaborate to build a better product. I am driven to help people work more effectively together.

What is your biggest achievement?

In the realm of work, this has to be writing “Agile Coaching” book with Liz Sedley . I am so pleased to hear from people that they found it easy to read and picked up useful ideas. The team at Pragmatic Bookshelf provides great support for new authors so it’s a great place to get started and they’re always looking for new authors

What is the last book you have read?

A book called Psychiatric Tales

Who should be the next person to answer these questions?

Steve Freeman.