Archive for the ‘Habit of improving’ Category

I’m a book lover.
For me, agile does not make much sense without technical excellence.

Two weeks ago two friends had an interesting discussion on twitter.

This conversation inspired me to publish lists of technical books to read.

As I have not been programming a lot the last years, I only know must read technical books from years ago.

 Instead of this being a problem I thought let’s turn this into a positive thing, so asked a few agile technical friends if they could send me their list of top 10 technical books to read. With the reason why….

 The idea is to publish these lists on my blog, about one a week. (similar to how who is agile started).

This was the list that Christophe tweeted:

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…)

As I wrote in my new years video mail, last year I had two pair of shoes that I wore out. (where I usually do + one yearwith a pair of shoes)
At the start of this year, I bought a new pair of shoes. I went to buy a new pair of shoes in the first weekend of the wintersales. At first, I thought I was lucky that my shoes broke down before. Until I entered my regular shoe shop. (As much as I like to create new habits, the last shoes I bought, I bought somewhere else and you know how that ended…)

I entered the shop and it was -predictable- full of people. And unfortunately in my size not many options for shoes left. Until I found some shoes, that looked different as what I usually buy, yet looked ok. When I put them on, I noticed that inside, the was a little heel. Which basically lifted my foot half a centimetre  (or maybe even a centimeter.) It felt strange, yet the shoes fitted.

Side note: Now I personally am one of these men, who don’t like that women wear high heels. I actually think it’s rather foolish to walk around in stiletto’s of 5 to 10 centimetre. Especially when I see the narrow size of the “heel”.

When I tried the shoes, my thought was, you know what, instead of criticising, maybe I should buy these shoes and try a little bit what it means to wear heels. (Which at the same time felt rather ridiculous as it was only a small heel and it was inside the shoe.) Yes, yes, the stories I tell myself when I buy something.

Next monday, I wore the shoes to work and by the time I arrived, my feet hurted like hell.
I was barely able to move, I don’t even call it walking.
My internal message: “Well yves new shoes always hurt, so …”

Yves this is al very nice, what has this to do with agile?
Great question, let me tell you about an agile transformation I did a few years ago.
I worked for a very big international organisation (think x0.000 people) as part of a 3 persons coaching team. We  were coaching multiple development teams.

There was another team that was thinking up the agile transformation. Some of the people of that team had been with this company for decades and had in this company only been thinking up policies and regulations. (Think project management Office style), some others had agile experience, yet never in this company. Together they came up with some way the teams were supposed to work. The coaches team realised very quickly that what they came up with did not work for the teams we were coaching.

A conversation I had recently made me realise they had split up their company in thinkers and doers. Something that might make sense in a factory (although Toyota shows us it’s not needed to be successful.) yet it for sure makes things harder in a company that does knowledge work. At a more recent agile transformation, we had a similar transformation team only  there the coaches team convinced this team to organise themselves in a similar way as the development teams.
I’m not saying this avoided all problems, yet by walking in the same shoes they asked the developers to wear, they felt the same pain. That created trust in multiple directions.

Reader:
Yves, before you leave, please tell us what happened to your new shoes.

Yves:
Thank you for asking.
In the first week, I noticed that my heels were bleeding. I remember having sore feet, yet I don’t remember bleeding feet. Once the bleeding stopped, my children noticed that I walked strangely (basically put my heels down first and only the my toes.) At some point I realised it was no longer my heel that were hurting, now it was my ankles that hurted. At that point, my partner asked, no begged me, to buy new shoes. She wanted to avoid that I would damage my legs for every. Although I felt I should really walk a while into new shoes, every morning I walked or better stumbled the 1.200 steps to the train station, I wondered what “a while” really ment.
As a change agent, I know I’m asking a lot of people to change their habits, that is why I’m regularly changing my own habits. Asking people in a large corporation to make the switch to agile, is a big change. A change that hurts.

In one of my coaching conversation I had with a CxO some years ago, this persons brain physically hurted. Intellectually this person new it was the right thing to do. yet ignoring the old reflexes gave physical pain.
And that was a person who believed in agile, where a lot of people I’m coaching, are not convinced agile is a solution to their problem. (And who can blame them.) On top, everyone around them, sees they have a hard time, and all these counsellors tell them to stop and good look for a new job. (just like my partner asked me to buy new shoes…)

Now, it’s about a month ago I bought the shoes, my feet no longer hurt. I have to admit, I still realise about once a week, I have new shoes. Which tells me, these new shoes are not a naturally extension of my body yet.
It’s similar, to a manager that is pretty new to agile, although he actually likes it,  when there is a crisis, they automatically start to micro manage their teams, not only honestly believing they are helping, mostly they don’t even realise they started doing it again.

So next time you help someone with a new process, please co-create it with them and walk a while in their shoes before you do. You will see, your new proces is accepted much faster…

 

In December 2014 I delivered a keynote at FailingForward.
This one was special for me, as my 12 year old son joined me on stage.

Here are the slides:

I already blogged about the preparation and Joppe’s (big) part in the preparation.

Last week I spoke at Failing.FWD
Although I speak regular at many events around the world, this was a special one for me.

Partly because it was about failing. Dealing with failure and seeing failure as something positive has been one of my favourite topics since I burned down my parents house in 1991.

Yet that was not the main reason why this presentation was special.
I had a co-presentor. Now for those who follow me, know I make a lot of publicity for PairCoaching, so having a PairPresentor is also nothing new. What made it special, was it was my 12 year old son who joined me on stage.
And we did the presentation in English. A language he did not learn at school yet. So his English is mainly “television & music” English. Ah, it’s wonderful to live in a country where most television has subtitles and is not dubbed.

During the day and the weeks before I received a lot of questions from friends about this presentation, I wanted to group some of the answers here.

How were you invited to this conference?
As Greet De Keyser said in her presentation, people should ask what they want.
When I saw the program of the Failing.FWD conference, I tweeted something like: Damned this is a conference I would have wanted to talk. And then Karen one of the organizers replied: oh you were on our list and we still have an open spot.
Getting what you want, is that simple!

Did they agree on bringing your son?
This is a nice example of “asking for forgiveness instead of begging for permission“.  I’m a professional speaker. It’s my responsibility to make a great talk. I don’t need to ask people if the content or style of my talk is ok.
yes, I did tell Karen I wanted to bring my son and I told her it was possible that he would be on stage with me. I guess, she trusted me. A BIG THANK YOU to Karen, Ann and the full Failing.FWD team for trusting me.

How did you prepare?
The million dollar question.
After I got accepted and before I started to prepare my talk, I received an e-mail from Joppe’s school that the school would be on strike.  So I asked Joppe  if he wanted to join me in going to a conference -that was in English-. I assumed his English would have been good enough to follow a few sessions. He said yes. And he said yes with an enthusiasm, that triggered me in asking him if he wanted to join me on stage. Without blinking he said yes. I replied, you realise we will talk in English, he looked at me and said yes with a big smile on his face. Ah, the youth and it’s innocents enthusiasm.

I prepared this talk like I prepared all my talks.

– I created the draft of the presentation on index cards. (alone)
– Then I rehearsed the presentation using cards (alone) a first time. (And adjusted the cards.)

I did these steps alone, not because I did not trust him.

In 2011 he helped a lot in creating our joined presentation about our life in Bordeaux, I knew having helping me to create the presentation would be a great asset. I did it alone because he still had some large tests at school and my partner did not want that I distracted him. (WorkLife balance is also challenge for him…)

Then I created slides from my cards. I had +40 slides for a 20 minute presentation. Although that scared a few presenters around me, it’s part of my presentation style, which uses a mix of presentation Zen, Pecha Kucha and training from the back of the room.

I tried it a few times alone and then talked with Joppe about it. Just like last time, he had some great idea’s and the presentation grew. And then last Friday we rehearsed a few times & some more on Saturday. The first time saturday morning, was one of the first times the rest of the family joined in watching and he froze. he stopped after 5 minutes and refused to continue.
We talked a little bit about what to do when this would happen at the conference.
I still don’t know exactly what happened, yet I don’t want to pressure him in sharing something that scared him. I did tell him to not worry, if it would happen on stage, I would take over.

Next time we rehearsed the whole family was out. Although they came home while we were halfway, this time he continued and everything was fine.
In the meanwhile I was a more worried about the nr of slides (we had already 50 by now.) I got worried because a lama listening to the name Sofie (or is it a Sofie listen to the name Lama?) asked me about the speed of the presentation.
Sofie is the kind of women that with just a few words turns my world up side down (no, not that kind of upside down.)
I’m the kind of man that has a big EGO, yet I also know that I need to listen to women smarter then me. (I live with two of these)
In the dry-runs with Joppe, I realised that Sofie was right. In some places the speed was wrong.

So on Sunday, me and Joppe we worked on the pace and the order of one part of the presentation. Joppe’s help was crucial here, although at first I thought he did not well remember some of his lines, he made me realise that I got some parts mixed up.
So I went back to my walking desk and started to type out that part of the presentation. It was hard, now Joppe & Sofie were independently of each other partnering up “against me”, yet more importantly in favour of a great presentation.

It was already 15:00 and we needed to leave. I had agreed with the people from Failing.FWd we could do a try out on the real stage.
And then everything fell together, yet when we tried it out, I noticed again it was hard to remember the correct order (remember we had already been practising this talk a dozen times.)
And then I did the probably the opposite of what Sofie would have done, I added 3 more slides. And boom, it felt right. No time to rehearse the full presentation. I uploaded the slides to Slideshare, loaded the luggage in the car while dropbox synced and of we left for Genk. We were half an hour late, yet the lovely Ann Dries from Failing.FWD came out to let us practise on the real stage.

I wanted to do this, so Joppe could feel the stage and I hoped that feeling this he would talk louder. Joppe is rather introvert and when he talks to me, while other adults are in the room, I can hardly understand him. Ok, this is probably partly due to hearing loss as a DJ and some other ear damage, yet he talks rather quite. We practised a full Dry Run, without microphones and with my computer in front of us. I asked him to talk louder then he did and probably wanted.
We agreed with An that we would practise another time Monday morning , now with microphones etc etc..

Although lots of things went wrong (I’ll blog about these in the next days), we had a blast on stage.
Joppe spoke loud enough and it felt to me that the audience loved his style, right from the start.

So it was no surprise to me he got a standing ovation of the full audience.

Thank you Filip Bunker from Pitslamp for the great pictures

 

A few days ago, my twitter friend (How do we call this, a Twiend?) Lamazone, asked the question:

“Dear entrepreneurs , young and experienced, how do you network?”

She received some great answers, yet I noticed that I network in a different way.
When I look at networking, I never see this as a way to find new customers. For me, networking is about connecting with people. Getting to know new people and learn from them. And in that sense, like Rosemie Callewaert  wrote, you can’t do “no networking”.

On top, I think that networking happens differently for introverts and extroverts.
For clarity, the definition between introvert and extrovert that I use, is where do we get our energy from.

An extrovert, gets her energy from connecting with people.
And introvert, gets her energy from being alone. It’s not that an introvert can’t connect with people. it’s that this costs her a lots of energy.

When I was in school I was  100% introvert, I spend most of my personal time alone reading books.
Today, I  have changed a bit in a sense that how I behave really depends on the context.

In some context, I will go back to my old behaviour and I need alone time to charge energy.
In another context, f ex an agile conference, with a lot of friends, I will spend hours talking, discussing etc…
In contrast to a full introvert, at agile conferences, I will actually get energy from these discussions. Which is why I can hang around in a bar till 3 am, and get up at 7 am, full of energy. (the fact I don’t drink any alcohol helps too 😉 )

Another aspect that has a huge impact on how I network, is my personal situation:

As a father I want to spend a part of my time with my three rather young children (11,9,6).
On top of that my partner works with people who have autism and is doing that also at evenings and weekends.
Since 1998, I have my own company, which means that next to networking, I also need to work for clients and run my own business.
Some of my friends say that work-life balance does not exist. And yes, I do believe that all aspects of my life are mingled. (Or fused as Jurgen calls it so nicely.)
And yet, I have to prioritise where I spend my time on.
When my wife has an evening, shift, I can’t put my kids in bed and be at evening event.
This means that integrating work-life has some limits for me (this might be different from you)

And thus I started looking for other ways to network. Either take my family with me, or find ways how I can do some of the networking at other moments, or from home.
This is the list I gave to Sofie.

A: At the clients I work, I  have lunch with people. One on one conversations to build relations.
I go very far in that, I have lunch with people from my teams, yet also outside these teams. Most of the time I pay for these lunches. I learn something in most of the lunches.

B: lunch with a not so stranger: at least once a month, I have lunch with people I used to meet professionally. Having lunch during the day, is now working better then going to evening events. (I used to prefer these on the nights my partner was working late, now I take care of my kids…)

C: I follow a lot of courses, both in as outside my expertise. Partly to learn, partly to meet people with who I share an interest. (As Ine Matuvu Dehandschutter said)

D: I give a lot of presentations myself. After them people come to me. And they ask me things, makes it easier when I am in an introverted mood.

E: I give Free Life Time support on everything I do. That way I help people and my network grows.

F: When people ask me a question, I first wonder, who would be a better person to answer this question. When I find someone, I link these people.  Even if I don’t know the person who I think could have a better answer. This way I make my network stronger and I delegate work. (Which is how I keep my own time under control) When the other person does not want to answer, I will still give an answer. yet that happens les then 20% of the time.

G: I’m active on mailing lists and other online groups, to answer questions from people.

H: Because of conferences and mailing lists, most of my network is outside Belgium. I stay connected with them using twitter and facebook. It’s not as good as having a coffee or lunch, yet it keeps a high trust relation with many people.

I: When I read a book I like, I keep a log of things I don’t understand while reading. When thing are not answered at the end (which usually is, as I ‘m not the smartest person there is.) then I contact the author and ask her my questions.
Using the author as an extended part of my brain.

J: When people do something I like: I thank them for that. When I can’t do that myself, because of time or place difficulties, I buy a book on amazon that I think they will like. I never tell them it’s coming, I just send it to their office.
(If they like it, I ‘m asking them now to pay it forward and send a book to someone they think does something nice/great.
And yes I even do that with people I have never met.

K: After I had a conversation with someone, I connect with them on linkedin. (yet, I never connect with people I never met.)

L: lean coffee’s: either organise one when I’m at a conference or follow the once that get’s organised in the cities I am.

M: When someone I know, went to an event or training I could no go to, I ask whist she learned there and we have a conversation about that. (Thank you Chris Matts for this powerful trick.)

N: When I meet someone new or see someone back, I try to ask them: what did you recently learn that you think I should learn.

O: I launch a lot of community events, where I actively look who can help me. Learning and connecting while doing still works best for me. In other words, I grow community builders.

P: I look what my problem is and then I ask for help to anyone I think that can help me. Even if that means contacting some famous (agile) person that I never met before on or offline. 80% of the people help me and a lot became friends.
(People sometimes tell me, for you it’s easy as you know all these people. No, I usually don’t know before and NO it’s not easy. I have to overcome my own shininess all the time. (Thank god for e-mail, which makes it easier…)

Q: when I read a book and I love the content and want to learn it better, I make a presentation about it. Explaining something from someone else, makes me understand it better. And it helps me connecting with new people. A huge thank you to Pascal Van Cauwenberghe for that.

R: I don’t look to create my own content, I prefer to work as a ThoughtJockey and promote idea’s of others.

S: when I go to a conference, when my family can’t join, I share a room with anyone. There is something magic about sharing a room (and if needed a bed..)

T: I try to listen more then talking, which I don’t always succeed, as this post is a nice example of 😉

U: I also share my mistakes. Nothing creates more connection as being open about the failures in my life.

V: I create event types like CoachRetreat : where I look for other facilitators who take it around the world.

W: I created a serie of books about interesting people: who is agile

>> Yes that is a lot of ideas: where do I keep time?  Simple, most of these things I can do either on a train or in the evening at home, when my family sleeps. It’s not that nice for my partner I don’t go to bed when she does, yet I do sleep at home most of the nights. That’s a lot more then some of my peer agile friends….
Oh I and I do all of this while walking on my walking desk, which gives me the energy to do this

😉

 

These are the slides fro my GrowthHacking presentation about hacking my eduction.

I wrote in my last blog post about creating habits. For me, agile is all about creating the habit of improving; ourself, our team and our company.

This video is a nice example of Karen, who is obsessed. She says she is obsessed about dancing. I would add and obsessed about becoming better.

 

If you like the video, check her website on how she did it. A nice example of agile, outside IT.

 

 

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