How One Group used Agile, Lean, & Scrum for Social Good

Today I saw a link on Twitter that intrigued me. It was a video of WikiSpeed's Joe Justice at TEDxRainier. Sure, the video is 10 minutes long. But, I guarantee it will leave you inspired. I get challenged all the time by people saying Agile is only good for Software Development. Well, watch this video and see if you don't agree that the horizon has expanded. If you don't want to click the link above, I'm adding an embedded video below.

Carrots and Sticks

After watching Dan Pink do his TED talk, I read his book Drive.  I felt inspired.  I am often left feeling inspired after finishing a book.  After recently consuming Drive for the umpteeth time, I made a sketch.  I then told Pictofigo about it.  The result is a poster.  I hope this gives you a good laugh. Watch the TED Talk.  Read the book.  Try to understand the surprising truth about what motivates us.

The Iron Law of Bureaucracy versus ICAgile

AgileI was listening to This Week in Tech #264  and one of the guests was Jerry Pournelle. Though it's not necessary to go into the details of the NetCast, Jerry said something that had me scrambling for the rewind button.  He referred to his Iron Law of Bureaucracy. (Jerry) Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. One example in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, versus union representatives who work to protect any teacher (including the most incompetent). The Iron Law states that in ALL cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

I then watched a Ted Talk titled The Child-Driven Education.  There were three statements by Sugata Mitra that I want to reference.

  1. Self-organizing system: Is where the system structure appears without explicit intervention from outside the system.
  2. Emergence: The appearance of a property not previously observed as a functional characteristic of the system.
  3. Speculation: Education is a self-organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.

So, what does this have to do with Project Management?  The organizational machine that is the Project Management certification ecosystem has become that second group Jerry Pournelle identifies.  There is now an entire industry dedicated to certifying people and keeping them certified, including the most incompetent. There is no focus on educating people in best practices, delivering value to customers, or increasing project success rates.

On the other end of the spectrum are the visionaries, the mentors, and coaches.  This is where I make my speculation.

Keep your eyes on the International Consortium of Agile (ICAgile).  At ICAgile, the certification path is divided into three main phases; a Fundamentals Phase, a Focus Track Phase, and a Certification Phase.  It's not all about getting certifications.  It's about educating and learning.  In the Fundamentals Phase, the goal is to educate the attendee with the values, principles and basic practices of Agile.  Having garnered the fundamentals of agile in the first phase, The Focus Track Development phase will have different tracks to choose from.  This will allow people to focus being educated in different functional areas like Project Management, Business Analysis, and Testing. Only after completing the courses in a focus track, will the applicant is eligible for the ICAgile "Professional" certificate.

I'm very bullish on ICAgile educating and people learning.

Being Agile is self-organizing by nature, does ICAgile have the unique opportunity to prove the Iron Law of Bureaucracy wrong?

Graphic: Pictofigo

Social constraints for your meetings

One rule that I have about meetings is it should start on time so it can end on time.  We all know that is easier said than done.  If you have a daily stand-up meeting, which is timeboxed at 5 to 15 minutes, you can not afford to have people showing up late.  They need to show up on time. But what if there is that one person on the team who does show up late... every... meeting?  Do you punish him or her?  Let's make them pay a dollar every time they are late.  Do you think that is a good idea or a bad idea?  Have you tried it?  I have.  It surprised me when it didn't change that person's behavior.  If anything, it just ensured they would be late.  Why?

By paying me the dollar, that person no longer felt obligated to arrive on time.  Everyone else, while still adhering to the culture of acceptable behavior, arrived on time.  Everyone else on the team, felt equally obligated to arrive on time because I was on time.  They felt that they owed it to me to be there on time.

So, how do you correct this negative behavior?  I like to zone in on something that makes the violator uncomfortable.  I've made them sing.  I've made them dance.  I've stopped the meeting when they've arrived late and then made them go from person to person on the team and say "I'm sorry for wasting your time".  This may sound a little over-the-top but they slighted everyone on my team.  Everyone else was there on time; they should be as well.

I'm including a link to a TED video with Clay Shirky.  You don't need to watch the whole thing.  What 4 minutes starting at 6 minutes 50 seconds.   He mentions the study A Fine Is A Price by Uri Gneezy and Alfredo Rstichini in 2000.  It is exactly what I'm talking about.  It defined the difference between social constraints versus contractual constraints.  Nothing like a research study to spice up the next meeting.