Many decades ago, people often had a stack of equipment for playing music and video. Typical stacks included a cassette player, compact disk player, VCR or DVD player, television, cable box for watching cable television and maybe even a turntable for listening to vinyl records. You’d need an audio/video (AV) receiver to take all of the audio and video sources from the devices and send sound to your speakers and video to your TV. …


One day my friend, III, explained that there was a new name for an Open Space law I’d known for years. It was called the “Law of Two Feet” and is an important part of successfully running an Open Space. Harrison Owen, the inventor of Open Space, defined this law as follows:

If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing — use your two feet and move to some place more to you liking. Such a place might be another group, or even outside into the sunshine. …


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Over the last few decades, a family of practices emerged that share an example-guided heritage. This articles examines those practices along with origins of the example-guided idea and how this unifying term may help us today.

Becoming Test-Driven

When I first learned Test-Driven Development (TDD), I remember being surprised by the simplicity of the software designs emerging out of carefully practicing the red, green, refactor cycle. When Kent Beck first introduced this practice in the mid-to-late 1990s (he actually used the word re-introduced since others had worked this way long before), it was common to do upfront design followed by development and test phases. TDD didn’t ask you to stop practicing good software design, however it did ask you to approach it differently. Just as a Socratic dialogue would be driven by questions, TDD asked you to craft an important piece of software driven by tests. …


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Have you ever noticed recurring problems at the end of a sprint (i.e. fixed-length time box)? Many agile teams struggle at times to achieve meaningful results at the conclusion of a sprint. Their work may be:

  • Unfinished: “We didn’t finish all of the work we’d planned for the sprint.” In the worst case, little gets done during sprints and work keeps moving from sprint to sprint to sprint.
  • Insufficient: “We’ve been burned by not finishing the work we planned for the sprint, so we’ll just do a lot less work per sprint and easily achieve our forecast.” …


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If you’ve heard the phrase, “Meet people where they are” I invite you to get to know what I mean by, “Ask for the Moon.”

When adopting agile/lean ways of working, meeting people where they are means not starting with major changes to how a team works. No new roles, responsibilities or rituals. The only change is to visualize the existing workflow so a team may see bottlenecks and decide whether/how to fix them.

This is a perfectly decent and gentle way to get started. Yet when I look back on the last 20 years of helping people, teams, departments, divisions and organizations learn to be agile (“characterized by a ready ability to move with quick easy grace” and “having a quick, resourceful and adaptable character”), the most significant successes I’ve had didn’t come from meeting people where they were. …


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One evening in February, 2007, a train with 105 passengers traveling from London to Glasgow derailed. The train, owned and operated by Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Trains, was traveling at the authorized speed of 95 MPH when a faulty track switch caused it to jackknife and careen into a ditch. While many fatalities were expected, only one person died, an elderly woman who’d passed away from heart failure hours later in the hospital. Twenty-eight passengers and two (of the four) crew members were seriously injured. When Richard Branson arrived at the crash, only 11 remained in the hospital, none of whom had life-threatening injuries. The most seriously injured person was the train’s driver, who had a broken neck. …


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In The Power of Broke, Daymond John, an entrepreneur and star on the hit show, Shark Tank, tells a fantastic story about Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.

At the height of Michael’s fame, Daymond’s friend, Hype Williams, was shooting a music video with the music legend. One day Michael shows up on the set with a dinky transistor radio, listening to a new song he was producing. Hype can’t believe it! The King of Pop could afford a state-of-the-art sound system and here he is with his ear pressed up against a crappy radio?

Hype asked Michael what was up and Michael explained that he liked to test out new songs using that transistor radio because most people around the world would hear his music through a similar device. He wanted to hear how they heard his music. …


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I love seeing great comedians perform. The truly great ones can make me cry with laughter and keep me laughing throughout their set with their insights, timing, intonation, expressions and body language. Yet did you ever wonder how such hysterical performances became so funny?

In his marvelous book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries, Peter Sims reveals what star comedians like Chris Rock do to create comedy gold.

Sims calls it a rigorous experimental discovery process. Chris Rock routinely shows up unannounced to a tiny comedy club near his home in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The audience of barely fifty people are thrilled to have this star comedian perform for them. But soon after Chris Rock takes the stage, the audience discovers that he isn’t so funny or animated. Sims explains that when Chris Rock tests out new material, he doesn’t “launch into his familiar performance mode that fans describe as ‘the full preacher effect,” when he uses animated body language, pitchy and sassy vocal intonations, and erupting facial expressions.” Instead, Chris Rock sits on a bar stool beside a legal pad filled with ideas and casually tests out each idea while observing his audience intently, “noticing heads nodding, shifting body language, or attentive pauses, all clues to where good ideas might reside.” …


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In 2001, a small green book was published by Norm Kerth, a deeply experienced software practitioner, colleague of Gerald Weinberg, and a leader in a practice he called Retrospectives. Norm’s book is called Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews. It’s a goldmine of wisdom on how to help teams learn from their experience, written by a genuine expert in the subject.

Over the last several years I’ve seen blogs and slides featuring Norm’s safety poll, but they usually don’t credit Norm. It’s likely that these authors simply don’t know the origin of this valuable technique. …

About

Joshua Kerievsky

CEO of Industrial Logic. Inventing Modern Agile.

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