Photo by Gia Oris on Unsplash

Starting is hard. But, it is one of the most important things that any team can do. Not because of the need to get work done, follow a plan, or reach a goal, but because starting gives people the opportunity to learn.

I’ve never been on a project that doesn’t evolve or pivot almost immediately because of information uncovered in those first days of development.

Change is inevitable, and the byproduct of assumption validation. We all make assumptions about what we think the market or end-users of our services or software want. …

How a queen bee is born

Photo by Trevor Minett from Burst

I recently worked with a handful of “queen bees” in a big company. And, every day, it felt like I was transported back to high school.

I felt the same anxiety, confusion, and uncertainty that I felt decades ago. To try to understand, I researched articles about mental disorders, syndromes, and linkbait listicles comically titled “top 5 tips for identifying sociopaths” to try and figure out what to do, how to behave, and how to protect myself from behaviors that chipped away at my self-worth.

Power struggles dominated every conversation, and the day-to-day effort needed to merely exist took a…

Teams need guard rails

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Teams need guard rails. These guardrails are the difference between team members moving quickly and successfully in a rapid Agile environment, and people accidentally running off a cliff (e.g. deleting code in production without a backup).

The guardrail concept is a universal truth for all Agile teams, whether they be face-to-face in an office or working remotely in a distributed environment. This truth crosses companies, languages, and cultural boundaries.

The objective of any Agile leader is to facilitate the definition and building of these guardrails so teams can be successful. This definition is the foundation of high-performing teams. …

Photo by Lucian Novosel on Unsplash

When people move from working in large, consolidated, office spaces to remote or distributed work environments, a shift towards Lean ways of working and thinking happens almost overnight.

Catalysts for this change are events like pandemics, downsizing, adoption of an offshore or nearshore team, and natural disasters (e.g. flooding, storms that prevent travel).

At the same time, a move towards remote work can expose preexisting weaknesses in typical management practices and structures that have no value in a modern, rapid-paced, distributed workplace. …

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

We’ve discovered with COVID-19, that there are benefits for companies, the environment and local communities when people work from home.

If you commute less, it doesn’t take much effort to realize that there is less pollution created. Roads and airports are less busy. And, those people that do need to move around (for deliveries and essentials) can get to their destination faster. There is less load impact on roadworks and infrastructure, which saves tax dollars.

Also, the usage of fossil fuels drops, which benefits the environment. One side effect of COVID-19 is that in Italy, satellite images show a severe…

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

We are living in interesting times. As COVID-19 sweeps the world and governments struggle to get a handle on the impact, knowledge workers are asked to work from home to curtail the spread of disease and minimize the damaging impact on the global economy.

While this happens, silently in the background, highly capable creators, gig workers, and entrepreneurs are thriving in the cracks exposed by a sudden need for remote work.

Business leaders need to pay attention to this.

In addition, politicians and community leaders need to take a hard look at their own response to COVID-19. Before governments could…

Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst

I work at a start-up. And, working for a start-up is scary, uncertain, and challenging on most days.

The questions I frequently hear are dark and ominous: Can we make this company work? Are we too big/small to succeed? Will our product survive? Are we focused on the wrong things? How do we know when we are failing?

These questions are complex and hard to say/hear, but people should keep asking.

The thing that is far worse than questioning is silence. Silence changes nothing. …

Photo by Indranil Bhoumik from Burst

Recently, I was sucked into a YouTube video vortex and ended up watching three videos about unethical company practices.

You all know how this works: you watch one video, and another is shown with the same content message but with a little more drama. Pretty soon YouTube has you on a radicalization journey as the content intensifies to keep you watching.

In my case, the journey was about companies that exploit humans to make billions of dollars.

(I probably started with a video about baking cookies for diabetic teens or the science behind diabetes. I can’t exactly remember. …

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

Building teams is hard — really hard. And, taking what was done with different companies, different projects, and different situations will not yield the same results.

The secret sauce is in the combination of people at the right moment in time. People are wonderfully dynamic, complicated, and messy creatures who evolve, change, and have different needs throughout their life. This needs to be understood holistically to capitalize on creative brainpower.

And, contrary to the common belief that difficulty pushes boundaries, those people who are dynamic, crazy, unconventional, and highly intelligent can be very challenging coworkers. …

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

One friend once said to me: “working for a startup is like flipping a coin into the air and waiting breathlessly to see how it lands.”

There is a moment when the coin spins and you don’t know what is going to happen next. At this moment, the fate of the company is preparing to show itself. When it lands, it can reveal greatness or a colossal failure.

During the moment of flipping, people rush around desperately trying to make the company work, all while holding their breath for the outcome.

I don’t believe you have to wait. After working…

Sharlene McKinnon

Geek. Multiplier. Leader & Mentor. Digital Humanities. I work at the intersection between humans + technology.

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