I have been following Guy for a while on twitter. A funny thing happened when I proposed him to be in the book. First he thought he did not deserve it, then when I convinced him, we also got into a conversation about blogging and in the end, he started helping out on the book. This makes him the first team member to be in the book. I love the team role he invented for the book WTT: Weekend Typo Terminator.
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
For a long time I was not interested in management, and I suspect it has to do with being a really poor leader in a youth group when I was seventeen, and from a later experience with being assigned authority over others during my military service. I didn’t like telling others what to do, and in the case of the youth group, I didn’t like that they didn’t bother doing what I did tell them to do…
I happily held on to being a developer for a good number of years, while younger, more ambitious teammates got promoted. Eventually, I did take a team lead role, and later started managing the lab – and it sort of grew on me. I found there are things I could do to help others be more effective. Next, I came across the servant-leader concept, which is about helping people grow rather than forcing work out of them. It made immediate and perfect sense to me, and helped me define my role to myself in terms that had nothing to do with my early negative experience with “leadership”.
If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
Hmmm… I love doing creative stuff – I studied art in high school, and used to paint a lot. Recently I have been doing crafts with my son on weekends, and occasional simple computer graphics design work. Sometimes people (who probably don’t think of software development as being a creative craft) tell me I’m wasting my talent. There’s a good chance I’d have become an animator – I did some hand-drawn animation (color pencils on many hundreds of pages) and really liked doing it.
What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
It is my nature to try to avoid confrontation. This is a problem if you want to be effective in general, and specifically if you hold a management position or want to coach others. Being aware of it, I challenge myself to confront more, to avoid bypassing conflicts or accepting things as they are.
What drives you?
In the past few years I discovered that I draw joy from being just outside my comfort zone. Does it mean my new comfort zone is outside my comfort zone? 😉
What is your biggest achievement?
I’ll focus on the professional achievements, I can’t compare those to the pride I take in my family and the home we’ve built. I work for Software AG, in a very distributed R&D organization. I manage the lab in Israel, and in the past few years I have an additional role in helping the whole R&D organization go Agile. I’m very proud of the speed and depth of Agile adoption in my “home team”. I think the team is doing great – it is creative and energetic – and inspires others throughout the company (and elsewhere). I enjoy sharing this experience with others, and seeing a ripple effect – things we do suddenly make sense to another team, and then someone else picks it up, and so forth. This good experience my team has with Agile is a great support for my global role, because when I coach other teams and individuals, the practical examples often come in handy to complement and validate the theory. Especially in areas where we struggled, and tried a number of different ways to do something. However, I don’t see this as “sharing best practices” – it’s never “one Shu fits all”.
What is the last book you have read?
I was always a bookworm, and sometimes have too many in progress, such as now:
- Micha Goodman’s: Secrets of the Guide to the Perplexed It is a rather scholarly book about the philosophical writing of the 12th century Maimonides, bringing Aristotle, Plato and Jewish thought together. I fear it is only available in Hebrew, for now.
- Teamwork is an Individual Skill by Christopher Avery. I love his work on the Responsibility Process, and I conducted a number of workshops based largely on his ideas.
- The Principles of Product Development Flow by Donald Reinertsen. It’s fascinating to me how his analytical approach supports so many agile practices that are typically justified based on “worked for me” or on wider empirical data at best.
- The last one I actually completed was: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking which was in many ways mindblowing. Not many books actually try to answer questions about God, the Universe and Everything, and give you the history of science in a nutshell.
What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
What do you like about Agile?
I’ve been in different types of R&D organizations before becoming aware of Agile – from big, heavily documented projects, to fresh, energized startup (that magnificently crashed when it ran out of money). Looking back, most of my personal experience was lacking an explicit R&D process, and I think it worked (in a sub-optimal way) mainly due to the sense of ownership people had for their work. So Agile (and Scrum was the first manifestation of it that I learned of) was a very attractive balance between too much process and chaos. Agile introduced a new type of flexibility and a concept of “sustainability first” that I had not encountered before.
The first thing that caught me was the project management aspects. But after a few years of practicing it and reading more professional literature than I have ever dreamt of reading, it suddenly dawned on me (and largely thanks to reading Lyssa Adkins) that it is not just an efficient management approach – it has ethics to it. Values. Giving people tools to make their work life better now, and wherever they choose to go next.
Whom do you think I should ask next?
- Lior Friedman – Lior coached my team briefly when we got started. I liked his approach, he helped us identify many actionable areas to improve.
- Ashley Johnson – This guy doesn’t really show up much in cyberspace, but from late 2009 and for the next couple of years he was consulting at Software AG and I was fortunate to work with and learn from him. He also does some work with Christopher Avery, and he is a co-founder of Gemba Systems.
- James O’Sullivan – For being the energy behind a small Agile community on Google+ (Agile+)
Givat Brenner, Israel
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