Category Archives: food for thought

Food For Thought #13: Less distraction, more ideas

Distraction

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Do you know these moments, were you’re between two tasks and don’t have the energy to start with the next one? I know these moments a lot. It’s same when you’re working on a task and you’re stuck. This is the time when a lot of people search for distraction. At least that’s what I did in the past. You open your web browser and start surfing the web, reading your Twitter timeline, checking for mails on your 11 different email accounts or check who is online on Skype. Nowadays it’s easy to get distracted. There are hundreds of ways to waste your costly life time. The main problem is, when you get used to this behavior, your productivity decreases over time. In the end your not able to concentrate on a single task and even get distracted by simple things DURING a task (like e.g. an incoming email or DM on Twitter). You don’t have the energy to start any task (maybe smaller ones). Don’t tolerate this behavior, stop it! Now! Did you hear me? Stop it!

The next time you’re having a break between two tasks, lean back and do….. nothing. Yes, exactly. Just do nothing. Don’t try to fill these breaks with some distracting activities. Try to withstand the impulse to open the browser or anything else to fill this gap. Just sit there (or stand) and wait. After a while the magic will happen: New ideas will come up into your mind. Your mind needs these breaks to get back into creativity mode. This isn’t wasted time, instead it’s one of the most valuable things you can do with it. In my experience the best ideas are created during these mind breaks.

Try it out and tell me your observations and experiences in the comments. I’m already looking forward to read them.

6 Things You Might Try in 2012

Firework

http://www.flickr.com/photos/katieharbath/4764671272/

2011 draws to a close and it is time to set your goals for 2012. If you’re not sure what challenges to put on your plan for 2012, the following list could be a starting point.

1 retro 2011

Before jumping into 2012 it might be a good idea to do a retrospective for the past year. Sit together with your family, draw a timeline and collect all the good things that happened to you in 2011. But do me a favor and forget about the bad things to keep 2011 in good memory.

2 question your org structure

When was the last time you questioned the organizational structure of your company? Does it still fit with the way you’re working? Does it support you in your daily business? No? Then it is definitely time to openly question this structure. I saw a lot of companies trying to introduce agile frameworks like Scrum but without changing the current org structure. It never worked. Let’s try to avoid it! Invite for a kick off meeting to get the discussions rolling and start the change process. It is worth it.

3 ask why

Why did your company introduce Scrum? Why do they think that agile frameworks will help. Why is this process in place. Why do we need to fill out this excel spreadsheet? Why does it take so long to get new hardware? Why is Bob behaving like an idiot? Why are you doing your job? Why is this task so important.

Why questions are the most powerful questions. They are a great trigger to ignite change in your workplace or even in your private life. Why questions will help you in your quest for a life of continuously improvements.

4 offer uncalled help

When was the last time you actively offered help? Don’t wait to be asked. When you see somebody struggling, offer them your help. This shouldn’t be limited to your work life, but also to your private life. Unfortunately, the number of people who are offering uncalled help is decreasing year after year. It starts with so simple things, like opening the door for someone who is balancing a cup of coffee in one and a laptop in the other hand. Try it out, it will brighten up your day.

5 work on your listening skill

Have a look at this great TED talk by Julian Treasure. He talks about 5 ways to listen better. Definitely worth the time!

6 genba walk

If you’re a manager or team lead, this one is for you. Instead of sitting in your office and waiting till everyone comes to you, leave your office and visit your employees. Genba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place”. Go to the places in your company, where the real value is created. The idea of a genba walk is that problems are visible and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the genba. It is also a great opportunity to improve your communication with your team.

What else to you have on your agenda for the year 2012? Leave a comment! Thanks.

Food for Though #12: Dogma sucks

Dogma

Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers. Although it generally refers to religious beliefs that are accepted without reason or evidence, they can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, or issued decisions of political authorities. The term derives from Greek δόγμα “that which seems to one, opinion or belief”and that from δοκέω (dokeo), “to think, to suppose, to imagine”. Dogma came to signify laws or ordinances adjudged and imposed upon others by the First Century. The plural is either dogmas or dogmata , from Greek δόγματα. (Source: Wikipedia)

Dogmatism is a wide spread bad habit in our industry.  You can find it nearly everywhere. There are the vi dogmatists against the Emacs dogmatists. The C dogmatists against the C++ dogmatists. The Java dogmatists against the C# or C++ dogmatists and also the agile dogmatists against the rest. IMHO dogmatism sucks. It does not only suck once it always sucks. Dogmatism blocks progress and impedes yourself to look beyond your own nose. It does not help to bang your head against a wall a thousand time, just because this is part of your dogmatic believe. It’s not always true that your Scrum implementation failed because you did it wrong. There are a lot of cases, where a plain Scrum implementation won’t work in your environment, in your context. In such cases, it doesn’t make sense to increase the number of prayers to your Scrum god. It won’t help you. The only thing that helps now, is to stop being dogmatic and look beyond your own nose. There are a lot of interesting practises also from other “religions”. Even the evil god of “waterfalls” had some good ideas.

But dogmatism also blocks your self development. There a people who are dogmatic about there belief that they can’t sing, dance, write, coach, code, learn an instrument, you name it. In some rare cases this may be true, but in most cases this is bullshit. The human being is an awesome creature that can do the impossible. One first step could be, to leave your dogma behind you. Let’s try it out and leave a comment about your experiences.

Food for Thought #11 – Checking In With The Kids

Bed

http://www.flickr.com/photos/taste-bittersweet/309718707/

The first time I read about the Core Protocols was about one year ago. Yves Hanoulle and a bunch of other people wrote an awesome article, describing the Core Protocol using a conversation between Yves and a fictional character. Simply said, the Core Protocols consist of a set of commitments and communication protocols, that can help to create high performance teams.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to try these protocols with one of my teams, yet. But I’m already looking forward to try it out. In the meantime I’m using my family as guinea pigs.

A few weeks ago I had the idea to use the “Check In” protocol with my kids, when I bring them to bed. Bringing my kids to bed is quite a ceremony. We start with reading two books, then I’m telling them a home made story and last but not least I sing a song. Now we added the “Check In” at the beginning at the ceremony. The “Check In” consists of 4 steps:

    1. Speaker says “I’m checking in”
    2. Speaker says “I feel [one or more of MAD, SAD, GLAD, AFRAID].” Speaker may provide a brief explanation.
    3. Speaker says “I’m in”.
    4. Listeners respond, “Welcome.”

We found out, that this is a great way to close the day. Additionally, we as the parents get to know, what is really on the mind of our kids. Sometimes, it is really hard to keep your mouth shut, when one of the kids is checking in and telling something interesting. But most of the time we’re able to leave the check in uncommented. I think this is also something our kids really like about checking in. They can speak free without explaining oneself. On the other hand, this is also a tool for us as parents, to tell the kids what really got on our nerves that day.

After starting the “Check In” by myself on the first days, my kids took over and started to explicitly ask for checking in. Even my youngest, who is 2 years old, participates. We’re using the “Check In” now for three weeks and everybody loves it. It’s a great way to start our bed time ceremony and helps everybody to come down and get to sleep mode.

I encourage you to try this with your kids, too. I’m really looking forward to your experiences, so please leave a comment.

Food for Thought #10 – Bring food

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff-anderson/4385042770/

Have you ever been invited to a wedding without food? Have you ever been to a birthday party without a cake? What about a barbecue without the meat? Watching a football match without chips and beer? Even at a funeral they serve some food. Usually when people meet, there is also something to eat (and to drink). People love to socialize around some (great) food.

So why don’t you serve some food, when you have a meeting in your company? I attended an awful big number of boring (and even some interesting) meetings without food. But what I did observe is, that food is one of the secret ingredients for a successful meeting.

Think about your last sprint planning meeting. In the worst case, (for a 4 week sprint) the whole sprint planning lasts for 8(!) hours. But even a 4 hours sprint planning is quite long. It doesn’t matter if you plan such a meeting in the morning or in the afternoon; towards the last 1 or 2 hours, everybody gets hungry. And if you are hungry you start thinking, where to get food. And if you think about food, it is very hard to focus on the latest user story. But if of you’re a smart ScrumMaster, you’re prepared. You ordered a big chunk of pizza that will arrive just in time. That way nobody has to think about food, because everybody knows that the ScrumMaster took care for it. But bringing food also has other advantages, even in smaller meetings:

  • The atmosphere is more relaxed and comfy
  • Better results
  • People will love to attend your meetings
  • Less late comers
  • No collywobbles ;)

If you still don’t believe me, ask e.g. @vinylbaustein. He loves to bring food to his meetings. Try it, you won’t regret it. I promise…