Archive for December, 2011

This weeks ATQ is coming from my friend Xavier Quesada. I thought I understood Visual Management, and then I started working with Xavier.

 

1) What is Visual Management about?

A. Drawings and pictures

B. Mind maps

C. Work and workflows

D. Arrows, boxes, and other shapes

E. Signs and signals

F. Graphs and charts

 

2) What are the benefits of Visual Management?

A. Creates transparency and trust

B. Spawns higher quality work

C. Enables command and control

D. Exposes lazy and useless people

E. Enables people to decide what they have to do next

F. Exposes projects behind schedule

3) Which of these are desirable attributes of your taskboard?

A. It should be clear and simple

B. It should be as big as possible

C. It should be in a public space

D. It should be comprehensible by random people

E. It should be clean and tidy

F. It should capture and show as much information as possible

4) What are the drawbacks of Visual Management?

A. It kills trees

B. It does not work well with distributed teams

C. It works well only in startups and small organizations

D. It cannot be used by the blind

E. Traditional management doesn’t like it

F. It is not suitable for highly regulated environments

The last WhoIs of this year, is from my friend JB Rainsberger. JB was invited by Dale Emery, Elisabeth Hendrickson and Linda Rising (coming up as first next year).
I met JB at the first edition of XPDay Paris. Met is a big word here as I do remember him being in our session room as an observer, but not participating.
It’s only later that I learned who he was, when we interacted on the multiple online fora. First time he really impressed me, was when he started talking about how he used agile to retire at 35. He recently gave an interesting talk about extreme personal finance at Xpday Benelux. A part of that session can be found on his blog: how much do you earn. If someone says it can’t be done, check JB he has probably already done it. His actions speak louder then anyone’s words.

Just like Laurent Bossavit,  JB created a “video”.   It’s is one of the most intimate and personal answers in the series so far.

Who is J. B. Rainsberger? from J. B. Rainsberger on Vimeo.

Here are Deborah Preuss answers of the quiz about Powerful questions that she wrote as part of my Agile Thursday quiz serie. We both hope you will follow the retroflection twitter account, were a team of 41 people create a powerful (agile related)question on a daily basis (already for 2 years).

“In coaching, powerful questions knock people off their automatic pilot program and make them fly the airplane”.
— Karen Kimsey-House,
Henry Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, in Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business,
Transforming Lives
(this is the recent, revised edition of the classic Co-Active coaching text).

I was introduced to the importance of Curiosity in coaching while going through Co-Active
Coach training
. One way to practice curiosity is to ask “powerful questions” – in Co-Active coaching this term denotes open questions asked to move a person or group toward something of importance to them. Powerful questions operate by engaging the answerer’s own curiosity to surface important facts, memories, assumptions, feelings and ideas. It is taught together with the Three Levels of Listening, because good listening skills enhance the ability to pose and use powerful questions.

What do you know about asking questions that energise people and move them forward in constructive and innovative ways? I hope this quiz teaches (or reminds) you of  at least one practice for your people-skills toolkit!

What makes a question “powerful”?

A) It conveys the questioner’s strong desire for change.

B) It sets a clear direction for answerers to follow.

C) It evokes the answerer’s wisdom.

D) It is specific to the answerer’s context.

E) It is easily answered.

F) It has never been asked before.

My answer is C.

While a desire for change helps frame questions, and context sensitivity is very important, it is the effect in the answerer that defines a powerful question. A powerful question cuts through old habits, defenses and assumptions, and invites the answerer to apply their wisdom in a fresh way. This may or may not make it easy to answer. And the same question in different contexts may lead to a very different outcome, so don’t hesitate to re-use a question, when appropriate!

A warning: be careful to look for and remove your own assumptions embedded in the question. If your question embeds hidden assumptions or suggestions, people (ever eager to meet expectations!) may look for your answers rather than coming up with their own! This suggests that a little thinking might be in order, if you have the opportunity to prepare (often you don’t, you just have to wing it, keep practising!)

Which of these is (or are) evidence that question has been “powerful”?

A) The energy in the room shifts.

B) There is a pause, while a deep breath is taken.

C) Body language indicates curiosity.

D) One or more of the above may happen.

E) It is impossible to tell right away.

F) All of the above.

My answer is D. And of course, an infitinte number of other signals!

While there are often long-term effects from a powerful question, its effect is almost always palpable within seconds, as the answerer wakes up, gets curious and begins to think differently. Those of us who would use powerful questions must also develop deep listening skills: using eyes and ears and gut-feel. Listening helps before, when framing a question, and after, to detect how the question has landed. And if a question does fall flat, be transparent: just acknowledge it and try again. When you are free to fail, so is your coachee… and this is just what we want to model. We “eat our own dogfood” when we fail without shame, learn from it and improve!

Which of these are sure to weaken the effect of a question?

A) feeling nervous and stumbling when posing the question.

B) already knowing the answer you want the answerers to discover.

C) presenting some possible answers, to get the ball rolling.

D) rephrasing it, to be sure it was understood.

E) allowing an awkward silence to lengthen after asking it.

F) None of the above.

My answer: B, C and D are sure to weaken a question.

The problem illustrated here is that of being too “helpful,” which may be more of an issue in some cultures than others (said the Canadian )
While it may seem kind to soothe the answerer’s anxiety by “helping” them with hints,  if you really want powerful, helpful answers you must let kindness sit by the side, as it is this anxiety that irritates the oyster and seeds the pearl, to coin a metaphor.

The answer to this natural temptation to “help” is to learn to WAIT.  Practise waiting, even if you think the question needs a little rephrasing (oh, this is a hard one for me!) Wait longer than you think you should. If you feel pressured to talk, count to 20 (try this, it’s harder than it sounds). If you have the courage, count to 20 again! When it starts to get awkward, Diana Larsen sometimes says to a group “I bet I can wait longer than you can!” and continues to wait!
With an individual it is easier to watch for non-verbal clues and be sensitive to their own timing. Remember that, with both groups and individuals, the reply may come non-verbally. I once had a group reveal deep distress non-verbally, at which point the right question was: What is going on here now? And suddenly we moved off a new and more deeply relevant direction.

Here’s something else to practice: while you wait, remain curious
–  *let go* of the outcome. With an open question, you cannot know in advance where they will go with their answers, and if you try to control or direct (i.e. suggesting there is a “correct answer”) people may sit back and wait for you to deliver your wisdom, short-cirtuiting the collaboration and innovation you seek.

Items A and E, while awkward, may well become invisible once the answerer is engaged and thinking. A powerful question shifts the answerer’s focus inward, and the asker’s discomfort or imperfection quickly becomes irrelevant.

Which of the following statements about “Why…?” questions is (or are)
FALSE?

A) Research has found “Why” questions, in general, to be more powerful
than “what,” “when” and “which” questions.

B) You can pose a “why” question without using “why”.

C) A “Why” question is the fastest way to the real root of any issue.

D) A “why” question may need to be repeated to dig down.

E) A “why” question can put answerers on the defensive.

F) It doesn’t matter who asks it – a solid “why” question always works.

My answer is C and F.

A “why” question may need to be repeated in different ways to get past the initial excuses, assumptions or “pat” answers – hence Lean Manufacturing’s “5 whys” exercise. But be careful: a “Why” question can backfire powerfully, too, making “Why” a great way to NOT get to the root cause. If people feel blamed, their energy will go towards hiding
or justification, not memory and creative thinking. For best results, use “why” questions in situations where mutual trust and respect exist.
And beware: situations of inequality, despite respect, may in fact reduce trust: Questioning while towering over a seated person can send an unintentional message of inequality and pressure! And any question could land quite differently if asked by a peer or by the CEO. These effects can be reduced by paying attention to body language (again, a form of listening), or by rephrasing “why” in a less triggering way:
“What made you choose that?” or “What is it that causes us to behave like this?”. These remain effectively “why” questions: digging for root
causes while feeling less blaming.

You can read a little about the research that revealed the differences between different sorts of questions in The Art of Powerful Questions, a pdf download on the World Cafe website. How does this relate to World Cafe? I have come to realise that many of our facilitation practices, including World Cafe, are simply ways to set up a context in which we can use powerful questions to help people! A powerful question is a great way to “get the right people in the room”, as when we make an invitation to an Open Space event.

Do you wish you had a coach to ask you powerful questions when you get stuck? (Question: What’s keeping you from getting a coach? )

Here is my offer to you: The next best thing might be my Powerful Question cards, a free pdf download in English, German and Dutch. (Further translations are welcome).

This weeks ATQ is about powerful question. Last year I worked together with Deborah Preuss who is probably an even bigger fan of powerful questions than I am. She wrote a nice introduction to the quiz, that I decided to publish together with the answers.
We hope this quiz teaches (or reminds) you of  at least one practice for your people-skills toolkit!

1) What makes a question “powerful”?

A) It conveys the questioner’s strong desire for change.

B) It sets a clear direction for answerers to follow.

C) It evokes the answerer’s wisdom.

D) It is specific to the answerer’s context.

E) It is easily answered.

F) It has never been asked before.


2) Which of these is (or are) evidence that question has been “powerful”?

A) The energy in the room shifts.

B) There is a pause, while a deep breath is taken.

C) Body language indicates curiosity.

D) One or more of the above may happen.

E) It is impossible to tell right away.

F) All of the above.


3) Which of these are sure to weaken the effect of a question?

A) feeling nervous and stumbling when posing the question.

B) already knowing the answer you want the answerers to discover.

C) presenting some possible answers, to get the ball rolling.

D) rephrasing it, to be sure it was understood.

E) allowing an awkward silence to lengthen after asking it.

F) None of the above.


4) Which of the following statements about “Why…?” questions is (or are) FALSE?

A) Research has found “Why” questions, in general, to be more powerful than “what,” “when” and “which” questions.

B) You can pose a “why” question without using “why”.

C) A “Why” question is the fastest way to the real root of any issue.

D) A “why” question may need to be repeated to dig down.

E) A “why” question can put answerers on the defensive.

F) It doesn’t matter who asks it – a solid “why” question always works.

 

Hello,

We wish you a great X-MAS and an energetic 2012.

(The picture below is a video click it too launch it)

5 years ago we had lots of trouble selecting a picture that we would use as a X-MAS card. Selecting one picture out of a few thousand was impossible for us.
We decided to turn this problem into a solution and our first video was born.

This year, we have taken 3.500 pictures. Out of these we selected 221. From these only 65 survived the making of the video. For us, 65 pictures is nothing to summarize our year.

For you, we hope it gives a small impression of our live in 2011.
Update: As we released this video on the 22 December, we missed an important event of our year.

Yves would like to send some special thanks to everyone who helped with the different projects he started over the years.

A special thanks to Lisa Crispin who has supported all my initiatives.

With this video, I hope you now know where my energy comes from.

Also a thanks to the people who indirectly helped creating this video:

PS: all of these project would love to welcome new volunteers

Update: With risk to spoil some of the magic, we selected this song because Bent school selected this song to sing at his first communion. (Which happened this year)
See here a link that inspired our school

I’m happy to announce todays WhoIs: the Nicole Belilos. Nicole is very active in the Agile Benelux Community. She is one of the people that when she does a session I want to go it. I remember her playing our “Help My Team is at War” session at XpDay Benelux, she was playing a women that had to undergo the meeting.  Her bodylanguage was fantastic, her whole body was shaking, but she did not say anything (relevant) in the meeting. (As she was requested to do.) This year I was happy to see that at XPdays Benelux she did a session that was related to that session 5 years ago.
One of the reasons I like Nicole, is that she is not afraid to push me. When she disagrees with me, she will tell me. And I will listen.

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

I studied Math at Bryn Mawr College, in the USA. Bryn Mawr was, and still is, an all women’s college. Having spent four years among highly intelligent and motivated young women has influenced me a lot. It gave me the conviction that women can, and should, shape their own lives the way they want to. I also became very interested in cultural and gender differences in different societies and communities. For example, why is it that at Bryn Mawr the percentage of students studying Sciences was a lot higher than at coed schools? And why do so few girls in Holland choose a career in IT, while in other countries this is very common?
In my daily work, I see how we work more and more with international teams, with a varying mix of men and women of different nationalities. All these teams have different dynamics, which is fascinating.

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

I would probably be a translator or a teacher. I actually did both for a couple of years. I worked as an independent translator and was specialized in translating user manuals from French and English into Dutch. I have also taught French evening classes to adults who wanted to learn some basics to go on vacation in France. My challenge was to make these classes fun and interesting, so that people stayed motivated throughout the evening. Do you know which sentence they always wanted to learn first? “ Je ne parle pas français”.

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

Playing all the different roles I have in life, and still staying sane. I am passionate about my work, but I also have my family as well as many other hobbies and interests, such as theater, sports and travel!
There simply isn’t enough time to do all the things I want to do. So I have learned that I need to set priorities and make choices. As I am a perfectionist, I still learn every day that things don’t have to be perfect.

What drives you ?
I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing things well. I seem to also have to challenge myself regularly. When things become smooth and easy I get bored and need to find a new challenge.

What is your biggest achievement?
It’s really hard to point out the biggest achievement. Professionally, I think it would be the Agile rollout I did at Ericsson. This was one of the first end-to-end rollouts at the Enterprise level in The Netherlands. At that time, there wasn’t much literature yet about Agile introductions or coaching. Intuitively, we did what we thought was right and learned from our mistakes. It was very challenging and therefore also very rewarding.
But in general, I believe that life is full of challenges and many small achievements lead up to a big one. Every time I challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and do something I don’t really dare to do, I think that’s a big achievement.

What is the last book you have read?
Professionally, I have read “Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams and Projects”, by Diana Larsen and Ainsly Nies. I was honored to be one of the  storytellers in their book.
I also recently read Kluun’s book ‘Komt een vrouw bij de dokter’ (In English called: Love life). It’s about a young woman’s fight against breast cancer, that she eventually looses. I cried from beginning to end. Currently, one of my best friends is fighting breast cancer. I admire her strength; it’s such a horrible disease and such a tough treatment. I therefore support fund raising initiatives like Alpe d’Huzes and Pink Ribbon.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
What’s so special about the XP Days Benelux conference?

It’s the atmosphere! The community feeling, the energy, the fun… It’s so different from any other conference I have been to. Take a look at his video, you will understand what I mean.

For me, as a co-organiser, it is also the opportunity to work on an Agile team of volunteers. We are a truly self-organizing, international, distributed team. For us, XP Days Benelux is a yearlong event, from the first reservation of the premises, through the call for sessions, the reviews, the program selection and finally the 2 days themselves. And the moment the XP Days are over, we start to plan the Mini XP Days!
At times it’s a lot of work and I ask myself why I got involved. But then, when the conference is running successfully, I get so much in return!

Who do you think I should ask next?
There are so many wonderful people who should be part of your Who Is series!

First of all Vera Peeters. I bet that world wide thousands of people have played the XP Game that she has developed together with Pascal van Cauwenberghe. She deserves to get a lot more attention and credit for that achievement!
Then I’d like to mention Portia Tung and Jenni Jepsen, whose workshops at the XP Days are always refreshing, energetic, interesting and… sold out.
And finally Dusan Kocurek, who is a true Agile evangelist in Eastern Europe. I had the chance to work with him last year. He taught me a lot about the cultural differences between Eastern and Western Europe and how it affects the Agile communities.

 

Last week I published Bob Marshalls questions about RightShifting.

[I admit that I added a few answers myself to make sure that all 4 questions had 6 answers. (2 f & 3 e f)]

Here are Bob’s answers:

1) What is rightshifting:

D An education campaign targeted at helping people working in knowledge-work organisations.

2) What is the primary aim of Rightshifting?

E To illustrate just how under-performing most knowlegde-work organisations really are.

3) What is the Marshall Model?

B A vocabulary to help folks in discussing the state of their organisations.

D An illustration of the hypothesis that collective mindset is the overarching determinant of organisational effectiveness.

4) How should folks best use the Marshall Model?

C To make visible and discussable the nature of the challenges in moving the organisation towards improved effectiveness.

Resources about the RightShifting:

The origins of the Rightshifting model

A short introduction to Rightshifting from SMS

At Lean & Kanban Benelux Bob & the late Grant Rule gave two great session about RightShifting

RightShifting Explained

Realizing Value: how to apply rightshifting

The linkedin group about RightShifting

You might also want to read Dee Hocks paper about the chaordic orgnanisation that was an inspiration to Bob.

21Apps also wrote about Rightshifting

Book: Presence was also an inspiration.

More info about the Rightshifting Unconference and the twitter chats

When I started ATQ, I did not only want to have questions about mainstream agile idea’s.

Here are some questions, about one of the latest ideas inspired by agile and created by agile minded people: RightShifting. The questions are created by Bob Marshall, also known as @FlowChainSensei

1) What is Rightshifting ?

a) A talking-point for people working in big corporations.
b) A management model for process improvement.
c) A collection of diagrams illustrating differences in how various organisations think about the World of Work.
d) An education campaign targeted at helping people working in knowledge-work organisations.
e) A context in which to help software development groups perform better.
f) An affectation intended to enhance the author’s reputation.

 

2) What is the primary aim of Rightshifting?

a) To encourage Agile teams to understand their place in the organisation .
b) To show how much waste is prevalent in typical knowledge-work organisations.
c) To highlight the causes of poor performance in knowledge-work organisations
d) To help management understand what they need to do to improve performance in their organisations.
e) To illustrate just how under-performing most knowlegde-work organisations really are.
f)  To have a new agile methodology.

3) What is the Marshall Model?

a) A manifesto for process improvement in organisations.
b) A vocabulary to help folks in discussing the state of their organisations.
c) A cultural model highlighting the moral superiority of the Synergistic and Chaordic mindsets.
d) An illustration of the hypothesis that collective mindset is the overarching determinant of organisational effectiveness.
e)  An excuse to play loud guitar music in corporations.
f)  Another name for Rightshifting.

4) How should folks best use the Marshall Model?

a) To enhance the likelihood of successful Agile adoption.
b) To make a case for not adopting Agile or Lean practices in the organisation.
c) To make visible and discussable the nature of the challenges in moving the organisation towards improved effectiveness.
d) As a blueprint for organisational transformation.
e) As a means to make Agile teams more effective.
f) To tell management that their current improvement strategy has little chance of working.

In IT we always have deadlines. And yes as a business owner I want to know when something will be finisihed. As a change artist, I know that for creativity you need slack time. This video is one of the nicest ways to show this. Thx To Ilse Heip

The next person on my WhoIs list is Patrick Debois. I’m not sure when I met Patrick, it was one of the first XP benelux events I attended. Patrick was one of the first people I met with an agile mindset. And yet, it took me a while to realize he was not (only?) a developer. He has been talking for years with such passion about combining developer and operations work. Hell his company is named Just Enough Developed Infrastructure. And then in 2008, he paired on a wonderfull presentation using great youtube video’s I followed from the sideline when he was launching the first DevOpDays in my hometown Gent. For personal reasons I did not join the conference and I still regret it to this day. And I already knew that new agile conferences have a special magic…

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

I first had a degree in industrial engineering and want to move into computer science. When I applied the guy said that they were skeptic on me pulling of a thesis in their field. So he suggest I’d do my thesis at the Bio Informatics department. At the time Internet was an academic playground, but my promoter saw the great value it and asked me to write a program to expose their entire calculation system to the world. We’re talking 1993! I had all freedom to work and this is how I totally got my love for the Web ever since.

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

I initially hesitated between Medicine and IT. And wanted to do both because my father was a Doctor and I learned through him that IT can make a difference in any field.
Now I would probably sign up for philosophy or psychology classes, as over the years I know understand the success of projects largely depend on human behavior and understanding.

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

My current challenge is not running out of capacity. Things are so hectic with all the opportunities and ideas I’m exploring. At days it can really wear me down. But it’s a luxury problem: I often say, even if nobody pays I would probably do the same job. I’m addicted I guess 😉

What drives you ?

I have clear hunger for new information , ideas. Routine is not my game. I enjoy the learning experience the most,  so I tend not to stay too long in the same environment. Sharing that information seems to be the most natural thing.

What is your biggest achievement?

Most people know me probably because of the term ‘devops’. It was not really an achievement as it more of an ‘accident’ that I organized the first conference and called it devopsdays. I never anticipated the effect it has on the IT industry. People are sending me mails , “thank you for changing my job” . That’s about the biggest reward I could get .

What is the last book you have read?

Design Thinking by  Nigel Cross. It’s a fascinating read about analyzing the core-capabilities of designers. I like to explore these kind of  worlds with IT. Seems like they are already moving away from user-centric design to collaborative design; something like that is creeping into IT as well : Open Source, Knowledge websites like Stackoverflow, github. Interesting to learn in analogies.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
How about,
Q. “how do you balance your family and your work?”
A. I could really use some tips 🙂


Who do you think I should ask next?

I suggest you contact Steven Noels who is creating Lily a scalable data and content store.

He is one of those Belgian guys with awesome future ideas in IT. We Belgians should be more proud of what we do and take credit for that.

Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Patrick’s answer to the question: What’s the secret to eternal happiness?