Archive for the ‘Sustainable Pace’ Category

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

😉

 

From time to time I have friends who become independent and ask questions about what they should learn as an independent.
I actually become independent in 1998 , and created my current company at the start of 1999.  I still remember the feeling. The thrill, the excitement and the fear.

Here is the advice I wrote earlier this year:

Congratulations!!!

Congratulations

Start by adding everyone you know in linkedin. I don’t think that can be wrong.
( I actually hope you have already done that, you did not need to be an independent to do that.)
Update your LinkedIn profile and add you are now freelance, add your phone number visible, so people can contact you directly.
Start giving recommendations on LinkedIn to everyone you can give a real recommendation to. (No fake cheesy ones, people see that) Everyone means your former colleagues too. (Who else can you give recommendations to?)
I assume you now know a lot about the work you do, so this year, only read about the business part.
this is new, give yourself the time to learn.
Make sure you have a coach someone who has a similar business as yours for a few years that you respect and ask her to coach you.  yes, I think everyone should have a coach and especially if your job is coach.
🙂
Now as for payment , you can’t afford to pay a coach yet as you did not make any money. You can do the opposite as I do. (which is the same)  offer an hour for an hour.
You help your coach with one hour of other work in return of one hour of coaching.
Money:
The only way to get rich or even survive financially, is to spend less then you earn.
That is true also (or even more) as an independent.
As an independent, cash flow is also important. As a result, I don’t spend money if I don’t have it on my bank account. Even if I send out a big invoice today and I need something urgently, I’ll wait till the money is on my account to buy that urgent thing. (You’ll quickly find out, it was not that urgent or even needed.)
If you old employer gave you a car, laptop, cellphone and whatever:
Don’t rush of buying them all new.
See if you can work a while without them: aka that old computer you have, might work for a while .
Most larger clients want you to work on their computer anyhow. Use that to your advantage .
Same for cellphone ,  you don’t need that shiny new iPhone Galaxy 69
A car might be harder if you don’t have any. When I went I depended I bought a very cheap second hand car.
Drove around with that for a year or two.
Investments
This does not mean you should not invest in yourself. yet everytime, ask yourself, is this a real investment or just a fancy way to show off. Do you really need that expensive car to score a job. And if you do, is that the jobs you want?
Taxes
I have no idea what the taxes are in your country, yet make sure you set the right % aside the moment you get your invoices paid. Yes aside means a separate account. Or if it’s VAT, you might pay that directly. I don’t like to prepay my country, yet I prefer this over not having the money around when I need to.

Safetynet
Set aside a % of your income as safety money.
If you can live of 100%, you can live of 90%.
As you have never learned to live of this kind of income , I would advice to set aside a bigger %.
My company, has never set less then 30% aside every month. Not even when I had cheap paying clients. There were event moment my company was setting aside 50% of it’s income.
And that is 30% of revenu after I set aside the tax money.
I set the money on an account I can acces, and it’s temting to use it, especially when the amount becomes large, yet limit the reasons for taking money out of that account.
My main reason is, when I say no to uninteresting jobs. This buffer, helps me to stay honest to myself and my values.
And yes, on already 2 occasions that money was almost reduced to zero. As I really wanted another job.
In both occasions I was right. On both times I got that job I was waiting for  and on both times it was the right job for me at the ime.

This has two advantages:
You learn to spend less on your business.
You set aside a larger amount for a safety buffer when you will be between jobs.
yes, I said when not if.
Yes there will be moments in between. And that is fine. That is ok , I would even say that is great.
Yet you can only enjoy them when you have a buffer aside.
I prefer to have a buffer of at least 6 months to a year.
I wanted to write: learned to spend more is easier then learning to spend less: as I struggle with the First part, it’s probably about as hard, yet I prefer my struggle, it’s less risky for my business
🙂
Marketing:
Tell everyone you know, that you are now independent.
Think of something you can send to people to tell them.
The old clients, for who you have not worked in 5 years (aka those you can safely contact without hurting your ex employer ) and that you would love working again?
Send them a book or something else valuable . Show them you still care about them (again only if you do)
(I personally send books on a lot of occasions, even to people I think I will never work for. It my way of telling them I like what they are doing. And I ask them to thank me by paying it forward and send a book to someone else.)
Thirdparty connectors
For some clients you will need to go through third parties.
Find the good ones in your area. ( avoid being hooked up with the bad ones)
And the get into the databases of all these good ones.
For me it took a few years before that actually paid of so start this ASAP.
What area are you looking to work in?
Threat the looking for a client as a job:
Work normal hours, make a personal Kanban board with everything you want to do, and prioritize…
Share
I hope you wil share your knowledge with your community (or create your own communities, like I do)
And most of all enjoy. If you don’t enjoy what your doing. Find a way how you could enjoy it.
Y

 

 

At the start of 1990, I listened to a life concert that U2 gave in the Point Depot in Dublin. (I just found this back on YouTube, I did not even know there was a video footage of it. I only had this on tape)
During that concert Bono said “

It’s your future. The only limits are the limits of your imagination. Dream up the kind of world you want to live in – dream out loud. At high volume! That’s what we do for a living.

I was 18 and that statement made a high impact on my life.  I was happy to see Dream out loud came back in the lyrics of Acrobat. He actually added “don’t let the bastards grind you down” which is an important part of living your dream.

That last sentence, helped me during multiple periods in my life to break with people who prefer to remind the people around them that they should not dream. If a bastards keeps trying to grind me down, my best way is to break with them. Life is too short to be surrounded by people who limit their lifes and mine.

The limits sentence I tweaked a bit and it became my company tag line:
We are only limits by the limits of your imagination.

Next video does the same thing.
It reminds me of
– Bono’s message,
the 7 habits of highly effective people
– for me the best session from ACCDE10: getting out of your comfort zone

Thank you Vincent Vanderheeren (and his wife Maaike) to bring this video to my attention.

PS: And one of these people living her dream is Bonnie.
She moved to London to study and ended up kickstarting teastorks
If you like Tea. check out their kickstarter project. Only 23 hours left to support her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1998 I became independent. As I work usually at my clients side, I have invested a lot in computers, yet almost nothing in my local office. I bought a desk from IKEA and used some second hand desk I got from friends & family.

About the time we first started talking about changing our house, I read about a standing desk. For someone who was a former DJ  and now sitting most of the time, that appealed to me. As a DJ I had a standing desk 😉

I was not sure about standing, I’m not as young as I was when I was DJ-ing all night.
Then I came across the idea of a walking desk.

The idea, is that you walk about 1.6 miles (2.4 km) an hour, while working. The theory behind, is that our body is more made to walk then to sit still. The minute I saw this, I was immediately sold. That is what I wanted in my home office.

When we started to discuss the plans of new house, I mentioned that to my architect. At that moment I was convinced that I should first have my new office and only then invest in a walking desk. Fast forward to the moment I saw the blog post from Peter. Peter is the ceo of Leanpub, the company behind the tools we used to produce our book: who is agile.

When I saw the video, it struck me. I was doing BDUF. I was designing an office for a walking desk, without knowing how it worked. I told Els (my wife) the same day, I’m going to buy the walking desk now. With that experience I will know how I should arrange my new office.

At the start of the x-mas holiday I went looking for a treadmill in Belgium that I could use in my office. In the US, there is treaddesk. Unfortunately no information to buy it in Belgium.

I finally ended up on a website with lots of treadmill and prices. (Tip for websites of shops: If you don’t show your prices online I don’t consider you a serious choice.)

As I had never run on a treadmill (yes, I am ashamed to say, that in all my staying in hotels, I never made use of these facilities.) I did want to go to shop to try out the different types.
I explained what I wanted to do, the shop owners had never heard of a walking desk. Yet they were very helpful. They explained what parts I had to de-assemble (or better not assemble when setting up the treadmill.)

I selected the T830 treadmill from DKN technology

Peter his second video, convinced me I also wanted an adjustable desk. I wanted such a desk, so that I can both walk and sit at the same desk, without having to touch my setup.
I only found one company (Steelcase) that delivers such a desk in Belgium.

After almost 2 months of working on my initial setup (2 normal tables on top of each other) my adjustable desk arrived. Already now, I know that this is how I want to work.

What about typing and mouse movements?

A lot of people ask me if I can really type or work with a mouse that way.

Check out our 2013 new years video. I finished the last 2 minutes while walking. And that was in the first week of having my treadmill.

This text has been typed while walking. If you might see spelling mistakes, this has more to do with my knowledge of English then the walking desk.

Actually, the last month I sometimes felt I had a problem standing. And then I realize I had been standing for 10 minutes and I had forgotten to turn on the treadmill.

Remember these “I will be 5 minutes at my computer and then you look up 3 hours later” moments?  I typically don’t turn on my treadmill for that. Now after 10 minutes I realize it’s taking longer. And then I make a conscious decision: stay on my desk and turn on my treadmill or actually stop working.

Other advantages?

I can focus on work much longer as before. (25 min VS 3 hours)

Want to know more?

Here is a video I shot from my computer, while walking

Here are some pictures of the walking desk in multiple setup’s.

Do you really move more?

I have a Fitbit One stepcounter since the 24 December.

Since then I stepped 800.858 steps.

That is 588 KM in 55 Days. (Remember most of day I am working at client side)
Yes not all these steps our on my treadmill desk. I still walk while waiting for my train.

Yet I know that before I had a walking desk. I NEVER arrived at 10.000 steps a day. Now I am almost never below 10.000.

Side effect: I never was a runner. I never had either: the energy, the courage and the times I tried it, I never had the physical condition. Since I have my walking desk, my condition has improved so much that it’s actually possible for me to go for a run.

Why do you do it?
It’s NOT  my intention to loose weight.
As a child I was always very very very thin (I weighted 27 KG – yes 27- when I was 11)
As a adult I’m weighting +80 KG.
In both occasion, people were telling me I should watch my weight.  They told me I had an unhealthy weight. In both occasion they had reasons. I have stopped listening to these people. I don’t care about my weight.
(When I burned down my parents house, I have learned that what people think of me, does not matter.)

So why do I walk while working?
I walk at my desk, because I’m convinced that my human body is not made to sit, at least not for + 8 hours a day.
Articles like this one confirm my bias.

 

What do I have on my desk:

 

Thinks to improve

  • a real Laptop stand
  • Docking station
  • a monitor arm to easier position my screen.
  • a huge powered USB Hub
  • Move the lift buttons to the middle of the table. Now I can’t reach them from the other side (Done)
  • More light around my screens, to give me eyes more rest
  • a small network hub for extra pc
  • I know that DKN has an tablet app. It would be nice to find one that supports the T830. Now the treadmill display is below my desk. Not a big problem, yet a little annoying.
  • a better piece of wood to put on my treadmill and below my chair. (I never use my chair)

 

Ideas for the new home-office

Install the treadmill in the ground

Articles that mention walking desk

 

 

 

 

 

 Examples of people on treadmills

 

People who disagree

Other related topics

Where to buy one

 UPDATES :

  •  69  days  > 1.029.401 steps     755 KM.   +/- 14.919 steps a  day
  • 104 days > 1.563.040 steps  1.148 KM.   +/- 15.029 steps a day
  • 188 days > 2.841.964  steps  2.092 KM.  +/- 15.117 steps a day
  • 202 days > 3.118.535  steps  2.294 KM.  +/- 15.438 steps a day
  • 279 days > 4.125.382 steps 3.048 KM.  +/- 14.786 steps a day
  • 342 days > 5.059.533 steps 3.730 KM.    +/- 14.794 steps a day
  • 363 days > 5.433.411 steps 4.004 KM       +/- 14.968 steps a day
  • 497 days > 7.250.225 steps 5.332 KM       +/-  14.588 steps a day
  • 903 days > 12.352.475 steps 8.996 KM +/- 13.679 steps a day 15.267 floors
  • 1106 days  > 15.398.485 steps 11.221 KM +/- 13.923 steps a day 18.820 floors

 

No wonder I’m much fitter. As I don’t care about my weight, I don’t track that. (Although my wife says I lost some weight.)

If you have a fitbit yourself, you can connect with me, and we can encouraging, stimulate, push eachother to keep stepping.

 

 

 

This is my presentation as I delivered it to Vlerick Management school as part of their Lean Leadership in ICT day.

I forgot to mention that I offer Free Life Time Support on everything I do.

I also mentioned Real Options during my presentation. Here is a video of me explaining Real Options and how to do that in ICT.
The slides about Real Options can be found here

In the agile world we have a few exercises to show the effects of multi tasking.

Last year I when I did a personal agility workshop with Gerry Kirk, he teached me a new one. He learned it from Alan Cyment

It became my favorite exercise about MT.

We divide the  group in two. The two parts are standing in a row facing each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We do 3 exercises in multiple ways.

 

  1. a complex hand exchange (like in a child song)
  2. Count from 1 till 10 with your partner using your fingers. (Person 1: shows 1 finger, then person : 2 fingers, person 1 shows 3 fingers…)
  3. “sing” a song. Person 1 says one word and then her partner says the second word and then again person 1.

The first round we do the exercise in sequence. First exercise 1, then exercise 2, then exercise 3.  What makes this exercises harder is that for each exercise you have a different partner. So after you have finished exercise 1, one row shifts one position to the left. (and the first person moves to the last position.) And the same again after you have finished exercise 2.

In the second round, people start the first exercise and when the leader says so, the group switches to exercise 2 or 3. Now this is when it becomes interesting as people have to remember where they were and they have to find their new partner and remember at what part of that exercise they where.

This exercise reminds most participants about their worklife. Always changing priorities, finding partners back. Before you can do a small task, the priorities have changed again.

One of the interesting things about this exercise, is that everytime I did this, in the first round all 3 exercises are finished in less time then finishing the first exercise in round 2.

So switching priorities does no help, not even to give the impression that things move faster.

 

Yves

 

 

 

 

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.

 

About 2 months ago I started my “Who Is” serie. The idea was to ask a a bunch of diverse people some questions and publish one set of answer every week.

The first mail I send out, I did not got any answer for a few days. I was not sure if it was a good idea or not, so I send the questions out to a few more people. Then I thought it is almost holiday. I will be gone for a few weeks, and I wants to be sure I can schedule answers while I am gone. (And I don’t want to take the risk that I don’t get any answers for the rest of the holiday period.) So I started to send out my questions to some more people.

When people replied, I started looking at the last answer (who should I ask next) and send out questions to these people. When people told me, I need some time to think about these people I asked hem, could you already give me new name(s).

I published the first set of answers from Lisa Crispin 10 days before my holiday. During my holiday I started to get lots and lots of answers. I needed a tool to keep track of who I invited and who accepted. I created a spreadsheet to write down all the names of people I invited. When I started to record them, I quickly realized I had already invited lots of people.

By the time my holiday was over, I had 76 people invited, 52 people had said yes (2 said no) and + 30 had written an answer. I started to add a publication date to my spreadsheet.

Somewhere along the way I had decided that I would schedule answers “in a first answer, first published” order. I communicated that to the next people I invited. (I did not do that to the first people I invited.)

When I received a new set of answers, I read the answers (I just love what people are doing with the questions.) Then I thank the person for his time (as I know that answering these questions takes a lot of time for most people.) And I tell them when their answers will be scheduled. More and more I started to feel guilty, as I had to tell people in July that they would be published in October, November etc…

Last week I received an answer from a person I admire a lot. I invited her before my holiday. I had told that person it was ok to answer after my holiday as I already had answers for the next weeks. I forgot to tell her about my “first come first serve policy”. By the time she answered, I had people scheduled until February 2012. I told her, the probably publication date. She was mad. Really mad. She had spend part of her holidays writing the answers, rewriting it a few times. The result was one of the most touching answers I received, very personal. She was mad because she found my release schedule ridiculous for an agile coach. She was right.

Lets look at this project:

  • I had a weekly release schedule.
  • A large project backlog of people (76)
  • A velocity of one

I realized I treated my project backlog all the same way: from the moment a name got added to my backlog I started to work on it: that is I send an e-mail asking that person to start working on it. In my defense I had an almost unlimited team for working on the backlog (one person a story feels unlimited for me.)

Start to see some links with agile projects? Wait it get’s better.

Not only did I have an unlimited team, they also started to deliver very fast. (That’s is why I now have 39 answers.)

I said I had a velocity of one, but I have 39 answers in a couple of weeks, shouldn’t my velocity be 39/nr of weeks? Aha great question mr Watson. To answer this question we have to look at my definition of done. When is a story done? It’s done when it is delivered to the customer. When is it delivered to my customer. Well the customers of this blog are my readers, yes I ‘m talking about you. The stories are delivered when they are published on my blog.  Aha that shows a a glitch in my explanation. I don’t have an unlimited team. I actually have a bottleneck. Remember TOC, there always is a bottleneck. Find it. And eliminate… Oh wait I am the bottleneck.

I’m publishing only once a week. That is a choice I made. Publishing more would be lot of work for me. Mmm when I coach teams I tell them, when it’s hard do it more often. Ok maybe I should publish more often. So I asked my agile friends on twitter (and in person)

Turns out that my customers liked my publishing limit and actually asked me to keep it.

Ok. That is a dead end. What else can I do to solve this problem?

Let’s see what is the problem again? The time between the receiving of the answers and the publication is too big.

Let’s have a visual look at the work:

Todo Asked Said yes Answered Published Total
46 24 13 30 9 117

I wrote this table as in Kanban. Every column represents the Work In Progress.

(Except that I added the total at the end)

Aha Visual Management helps again. Clearly the biggest block is in publishing.(Tell me something I did not know.) I already know that publishing faster is not an option.

Ok so now you are doing Kanban, so what would David Anderson do? He would limit the work in progress.

I can’t stop people from saying yes.

I can’t stop people from being added to the TODO list (really I can’t because it is part of how the answer that I expect people to give.)

The only place where I can limit the work in progress is Stop asking people to answer questions. (For clarity I did not write: ask people to stop answering questions.)

As you can see I have already 46 more stories ready on my backlog (they are ready when I have a name and an e-mail adres.)

For all the people that have answered the questions, I’m sorry the time between your answers and my publication is so long. This was in no way my intention to disrespect the work you did to answer the questions.

If I already asked you, and you haven’t answered, what should you do?

Today (2011/08/18) I have a publishing schedule until 2012/04/10. This means I ‘m not urgently waiting on your answers.

You can answer at your own pace, write the answers when you have time.(I do keep my scheduling based on first come first served.)

A big thank you for the person being mad at me at pushing me to blog about it.

(You know who you are)

Y

One way to gain trust in people, is to gradually give them more responsibility. By splitting work up in very small steps, that is possible. There are actually lots of reasons to work in babysets.

My friend Pascal says, if its hard to do, do more of it.
My partner says to our kids: chew smaller pieces (of meat).

In babysteps multiple dynamics come together:

  1. When the work is smaller, the problems are smaller.  Joshua Kierevsky launched the limited red society in 2010. He wants people to do TTD and refactoring in smaller steps. The idea behind it is to keep the time of a none working project as small as possible.  As part of his e-learning course, they offer a tool that graphically shows when people are in the red.
  2. One interesting observation they saw was that people that are less in the red, usually end up with nicer designs.
  3. People that achieve a series of small steps, gain more confidence than people that do everything in one step. When I try to achieve one big goal I encounter a lot of problems, I only have a feeling of achievement at the end. (While trying I actually am frustrated most of the time)
    When I do something with small steps, I achieve one goal after another. Like with tdd where I implement one test after another.
  4. At the end of the day I actually feel I have done something (implemented x tests).==>  I gain confidence.
  5. Its easier for other people to see what I am doing.
  6. With babystep not only is what I am doing visible. It also shows my real progress.
  7. Because all the sub-steps are visible, they can congratulate me on specific actions. When they are specific in their congratulations, I tend to believe them more thus trust them more.
  8. When the direction I am going is wrong, people have the option to give me feedback (not possible if they only see work when my work is done after a few days)
  9. Depending how the work is splitted, other people might have the options to help me. When I do everything in one large chunk that is never possible. This way people see me less as the hero, but the work gets done.
  10. Not only can they help me, it is also possible for people to take over when my priorities change. (Both  personal or company driven priorities)

Update: Or like Peter Sims from TC says Don’t bet big.

This year I am focusing on my work life balance. At one moment I was talking to a customer about project portfolio. While I was explaining why they needed it, I realized that I needed that also for my own life.

My creative mind invents new projects to start every free second. For a lot of these, I have find collaborators that help me to do the project. Last year my colleague Deborah told me that she toughed it was a bad idea to start yet another project. I was not ready for that message.

This year some of my the teams I’m working with, have a hard time stopping projects. Then it struck me. Start stopping projects is exactly what I should do.

There are multiple ways to stop a project.

* Finish it, in a way it goes into production, is the best way.

* Not starting (Saying no to) new projects is another way to keep my life into balance.

* On top of that, a project that is not working and dragging my time should be stopped.

A coaching talk with Johanna (from project portfolio fame) made me realize that it is hard for me to stop a project I believe in. Reflecting on the talk, I though of how Jerry Weinberg writes about writers block. If he is blocked on a book, he starts writing on what he has energy for. It felt totally logic for me when I read it. Until I have to tell people I failed at a certain project.

I know failing fast is good. Failing at a first iteration is good for the project. That does not mean it feels good.

My positive brain rephrases the experience as ‘It’s good as a coach to fail from time to time’ and my heart says damn you positive, it hurts and I need time to digest that pain.

I’m mad, sad, afraid that I failed at the first attempt to create an agile games book. Trying to release a version for agile games 2011 was a good learning experience. I learned an awful lot about myself. Learned about book writing, learned about distributed collaborative working and sustainable pace. The agile practice that is hardest for me.

So what is the future of the Agile Games books?

I will let the DropBox folder live. When I have energy I will add stuff to it. I hope other people will do the same. From time to time I will compile what I have in a PDF.

 

y

Ps Michael, Deborah I know you warned me for this. I am glad that I did not listen to you as I learned a lot. 😉

 

Update: I forgot to thank Jurgen De Smet for the perfect picture match