My GLSEC Talk on Slideshare

After my talk at GLSEC, I wanted to make my slide deck available for viewing by the general public.  I noted to the people attending that my presentation was going to be a little heavy on text, so the people reading it later could actually understand what I was talking about. The best talks I've seen have been those where the presenters only referenced their slides from time to time.  Of course, we're all thinking of a Steve Jobs keynote.  But imagine if you viewed his slide deck after the fact?  It would be pretty hard to get detailed information, unless you read a transcript of the event. After reviewing a few methods of distributing my presentation, I decided on slideshare. The original presentation lasted closed to 1 hour. We spent about 15 minutes of my talk playing two interactive games. (Simon Says and Red Light Green Light) Other than the games, the basis of the talk are all in the deck.

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 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.

Judging an Agile Book

I'm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to speak at the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference.  If you ever imagined what an "Agile" company looked like, I think I am looking at it right now.  I'm blogging today from Atomic Object.  The exterior of the 100 year-old building is very unassuming.  Upon entering the building, I'm greeted by several dogs.  Yes, like in man's-best-friend dogs.  They give me the once-over and allowed me to pass.  I walk past a wall with mountain bikes and walk upstairs to discover a truly Agile workspace.

The floors are a light wood and the workspace is wide open.  There is plenty of natural light.  In the middle of the room is a functioning stop light.  It's exactly what I thought it was.  It's an information radiator to indicate if the build is broken or not.  Fortunately, the light is green.  I'm now sipping on a freshly brewed cup of black coffee and enjoying web access.  There are almost as many whiteboards as there are approachable friendly people.

I know you should not judge a book by its cover.  But, if I'm looking for a book on Agile, I would have a few expectations.  This place and the people working here exceed those expectations.

When I return to Washington DC tomorrow night, I'll take with me the first hand confirmation that Agile workspaces (and companies) are so much more inviting than those with cube farms or offices.

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

Don't be a Lumbergh

I'm plugging away on my presentation "Breaking the Law of Bureaucracy" for the upcoming Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference. Though I know I should be focusing on how to break this law, I can't help but think of the organizational bureaucracies we all deal with.  Two types of people within our organizations come to mind, the Zombies and the Bill Lumberghs (from Office Space).  Yeahhhh, you know that guy or gal.  They're heavy on style and light on substance.  They are more concerned about you having a coversheet on your TPS (Total Project Status) report than they are of refining the process so you no longer need a TPS Report or a coversheet.  He or she sits in a corner office telling you how much time you have to complete the work they have estimated and committed for you.

Yeah, I'm going to need you to come in on, ohh, Saturday. We need to play catch up. Oh, and you might as well come in on Sunday too. Thannnkkss..

Bill Lumburgh and the Bobs Now that you know the type of person to look for, think of a way to lower the amount of bureaucracy you're dealing with every day.  I'm not suggesting you change the world.  Just look for one small change that is a pain-point or bottleneck for you, your team, or the organization.  In the case of being asked to come in on Saturday or Sunday, you're going to have to take control of who does the estimating.  If the people who are doing the work are the ones doing the estimates, there's a lower probability the estimates are going to be off and the team being over-committed.  Empower your team...and for the sake of us all, don't be a Lumbergh.