Tag Archives: food for thought

Food For Thought #13: Less distraction, more ideas

Distraction
http://www.flickr.com/photos/30228426@N03/2832163100/

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 #1 – Learning Culture

Brownbag
http://www.flickr.com/photos/megjohn/3606325752/

This is the start of my first series on this blog. As the name implies, it will be about nice and spicy food for thought. At least IMHO 😉 My personal goal is to write at least one new “food for thought” per week, and of course to get many new blog readers. Comments are highly appreciated.

In the first edition I’d like to write about learning culture. A missing learning culture is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons for failing agile transitions. I know some people who stop with active learning direct after university or even after school. They think: “Great, now that I’m a master of science I know everything about my job to be successful.”. Unfortunately this is bullshit. If you want to be a successful and competent member of your team you have to be open to learn new things in a sustainable pace. To stop learning has the same effect as to stop drinking. You won’t survive very long. Jurgen Appelo stated in his latest presentations that self-development is one of the 7 duties of great software professionals and I totally agree with him.

But what can you do to establish a learning culture in your team or even in your company? Ever heard about brownbagging? In the US it’s very common that you carry your home made lunch to school or work in a brown paper bag. And this is were the brownbagging has it’s name from:

In the United States, an informal meeting at work, over lunch, where everyone brings a packed lunch, is a brown-bag lunch or colloquially a “brown bag“, and the practice known as brownbagging. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownbag)

Brownbagging works like this: Every week one colleague of your company or team prepares a short presentation (5 to 10 minutes is enough) about an idea or an interesting topic and presents it at lunch. After the short presentation you sit together and discuss about it instead of talking about other boring stuff like your sick canary bird. This practice is a great starting point to support self-development and create a learning culture in your company. You may have to gently kick some asses to get the ball rolling, but after a few weeks everything will start to self organize. One of the advantages of brownbagging is, that it is during lunch time so your boss will love it. I encourage you to try it out and leave me a comment how it went…