Operating Outside Your Comfort Zone

Operate Outside Your Comfort Zone

Operate Outside Your Comfort ZoneLast week, I facilitated an Agile game, with the goal to increase product delivery throughput.  At the beginning of each iteration, I would remind the team “The seven rules of the game are…“.  Upon completion of the third iteration and only seeing modest gains, one of the team members questioned the need for one of the rules and proposed a change in the delivery process.  She asked me, “Is it ok if we do that?”  My response didn’t give her much solace.  Though I knew she was concerned with potentially lowering delivery throughput, I said “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. Just do it.”  The team then changed their process, resulting in a dramatic increase in delivery throughput.

Though I know success isn’t always the outcome, if you don’t go outside your comfort zone and do something different, you’re never going to see dramatic results.  This applies on both organizational and personal levels.  Within the game, I allowed the team to pilot the new processes so they would either fail quickly or prove their theories.  Over the course of a few iterations, they figured out what worked and what did not, while adhering (directly and indirectly) to the original seven rules.

Within an organization, I recognize things can be much more complicated.  We have regulatory compliance, mandates, and policies to contend with.  I do challenge you to question if they all apply to your current situation.  As with the game, the team just assumed if the rule was listed then it must apply to them.  Without questioning the rules, the results are heavy and burdensome processes.

On a personal level, we litter our lives with artificial constraints.  We accumulate a lifetime of unnecessary rules, rarely stopping to ask ourselves why we do things that prevent us from excelling in the areas we desire.  I’m not promoting living or working recklessly or unethically. Uphold a few guiding principles and reteach yourself to intentionally go outside your comfort zone.  Stop asking permission and let the magic happen.

You can also read this post at LeadingAgile

Categories: Agile, Misc, Project Management Tags: Tags: , , , ,

PMI-ACP Learning is Fun


This week I debuted my PMI-ACP class to the Washington DC/Baltimore area.  Being this was the first time I was offering this class, I had a little trepidation.  Would my students take to my teaching methods?  As I walked into the training center, I passed another classroom.  It was a 5-day PMP exam prep class.  It was a 5-day PMP exam boot camp. Knowing how boot camps are presented, I knew I did not want the same for my class.

I was looking to do more that teach people how to pass a test.  I really wanted them to walk away with an understanding of concepts like self-organization, adaptive planning, continuous improvement, or delivering value.  I was looking to spend a lot less time lecturing and a lot more time engaging my students with discussions, simulations, and games.

Over the course of the next three days, we held lengthy discussions on real-world topics.  I would introduce a concept and ask questions like now that I’ve talked about Concept A, how could you apply it at your organization?  The class would then compare and contrast different scenarios from each of their respective perspectives.  But, I have to admit, some of the best moments of the class came when we played games.  Activities ranged from building paper airplanes, to playing the “ball point” game and building a town out of Lego’s.  I can’t express the satisfaction I got, when I saw “lightbulb” moments for each of the students.

One of the attendees just wrote me an email, saying:

The class was excellent!  This has been the most valuable class I have had relative to understanding Agile and applying it to my organization.

We had 6 early-adopters at the first class and I got some excellent feedback.  I know the next class will be even better.  Anyone have some Lego’s for sale?

GLSEC Retrospective


GLSECI’m back from a quick trip to Michigan.  The Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference was taking place and my talk had been accepted.  My talk was titled Breaking the Law of Bureaucracy (I’ll upload my deck in a few days) and the topic was Servant-Leadership.  Though I really enjoyed giving my talk, the best part of my visit was all of the people I interacted with.  I finally met Casey DuBois, a guy I’ve known via email and phone for over a decade.  We used to do business together (long distance) and this meetup was a long time coming.  Next, I met several people from Atomic Object and drank a bunch of their coffee.  Later, I met the organizers, sponsors, and other speakers who made the conference happen.  And to think that was just Friday.

Saturday went by way too fast.  Everything ran very smoothly. I gave my talk, we played Simon Says and Red Light Green Light, and I even had an opportunity to meet Ben Lichtenwalner from ModernServantLeader.com. If I could have done anything more, it would have been attend more of the sessions.  The speakers and content were top notch.

It was really exciting to talk to a few local startups from the Grand Rapids area and to hear about a local incubator called Momentum. It made me realize the importance of local incubators and helping startups succeed.  These startups have solid ideas!  I’d write about them now but I want to have standalone posts for them.

So, I’m going to keep this short.

Thank you to Grand Rapids for a truly awesome experience.  A very special thank you to Mr. Casey DuBois for his amazing hospitality.

My Own Agile Game


Because I will be speaking at the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference (#glsec) on April 16, I will be unable to attend Agile Games 2011 (#agilegames).  Realizing my session was for 50 minutes, I wanted to include a game as part of my talk.  Seriously, can you image listening to me talk for 50 minutes straight?  When I’ve seen other speakers who included collaborative play or human interaction in their presentations, it made the session so much more enjoyable.  So, I contacted Brian Bozzuto of BigVisible to ask if he could help me with a game on servant-leadership.

Brian made some recommendations and here is my final idea.  I call it Simon Says versus Red-Light-Green-Light. I’ll admit, I find it hard to believe someone else has not documented this “game versus game” as an exercise to help people understand the concept of empowerment or servant-leadership.  If you know of someone who has documented this game, please let me know so I can give them credit.


Command and Control Management

Game: Simon Says (Modified)
The Goal: Participants want to get from one side of the room to the next, via instructions from you (Simon).  Participant must be navigated around obstructions and follow Simon’s instructions (regardless if instructions help the participant get closer to the goal or not.)

  1. Line up a group across the room from you.
  2. Tell the players that they should all obey you if you first say the words “Simon says.” (all directions will begin with “Simon says”)
  3. Tell them the goal of the game is to get across the room in the shortest possible path.
  4. Begin by saying something like, “Simon says, participant 1, take 3 steps forward.”
  5. Look to make sure he or she has taken 3 steps forward.
  6. Give another order such as, “Simon says, participant 2, take 1 step to the left.”
  7. Continue giving orders. Having the players navigate toward the goal and around obstructions.
  8. Give a few players direct paths to the goal and a few players crazy instructions that do not help them reach the goal.


Game: Red Light Green Light (Modified)
The Goal: Participants (cars) want to get from one side of the room to the next, via self-direction and verbal input.  You will act as the stoplight. Someone will act as the obstructionist, who will block cars with whatever is available.  When stopped, the obstructionist will block cars.  The stoplight will then ask the cars if they want obstructions removed or if they want to continue on.

  1. Line up a group across the room from you (the Stoplight).
  2. Tell the cars that they should all obey the instructions to stop or go by the verbal queues of red light and green light.
  3. Tell them the goal of the game is to get across the room in the shortest possible path.
  4. Begin by saying “Green light”, allowing cars to approach the goal.
  5. Give the order “Red light.”
  6. Have an obstructionist block the cars in some way.
  7. Ask the cars if they wish you to move any obstructions or if they wish to continue on. (just ask if they need help)
  8. Give stop-go orders until the the last car reaches the goal.

That’s it!  That’s my comparison between a traditional top-down management environment versus an empowered environment with the assistance of a servant-leader.  If you have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear them.

HT: Brian Bozzuto

Motivate With Game Mechanics


Yep, I got it done.  Last night I voted and I even got a Foursquare badge!  I can’t say anyone I voted for did or did not get into office.  That wasn’t the point.  I just wanted to exercise my right to vote… and get that damn badge! All day I noticed people were checking in and getting an “I Voted 2010” badge.  Though a Foursquare badge won’t lower or raise my taxes, I found the idea of awarding the general public for voting a compelling idea.  How many geeks out there were more motivated by that badge than voting someone into office?  Well, the check-ins totaled 50,416.  I can’t speak for motivations.

It got me thinking, if you want to encourage your team (or the general public) to do something, do you just employ game mechanics (specifically victory condition mechanics) like in Foursquare?  Is it that simple?

Like the image?  Find it at Pictofigo

Categories: Misc Tags: Tags: , , ,

Why the game of Candy Land bothers me

Every child’s first game, CANDY LAND is a colorful way for a preschooler to experience the joy of game play. The game teaches color recognition and matching while reinforcing the lesson of taking turns and being a gracious winner or loser. You will love to see the smile on a young person’s face as they travel through CANDY LAND.

That’s what Hasbro has to say about it.  What do I have to say about it?

Every father’s first game, CANDY LAND is a colorful way for a parent to tell his child that this is not how life really is.  The game teaches color recognition and matching while reinforcing an attitude that you can still succeed, even without a strategy.  It teaches the lesson of accepting an outcome, when nothing is within your control and everything is left to chance.  You will love to see the smile on a young person’s face when you play your first game of chess.

I’m a loving father.  But I’m also insanely competitive.  I don’t think we do our kids any favors by teaching them to just throw the dice or spin a wheel and let life hand them a destiny.  I’m going to raise my son to not expect a ribbon for just showing up.  I’m going to raise my son to not expect something for nothing.

I want him to know that there are risks is life but there are also great opportunities.  It might not start with a game called CANDY LAND but it sure will in the game called LIFE.

Do you think everyone should be rewarded for just showing up?

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