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Archive for October, 2009

Interesting blog posts (October 29/2009)

Steve Roesler has a great post. “The Four Things Every Employee Wants to Know” is simple and accurate. They are easy questions to remember and would make a huge difference in increasing your employees’ job satisfaction.

Want to know “the most important skills needed to be an effective global leader“?. Dan McCarthy explains why Ethics, Honesty, Transparency, Integrity, Humility, Respect, Flexibility, and Collaboration are the most important.

Organisational Design, Development and Change” presents various organizational structures.

 

 

Happy 1st anniversary Analytical-Mind

1 year of blogging

1 year of blogging

It has already been 1 year since I published my first blog post. As I quickly figured out, Blogging is like training! It requires time, energy, and commitment and when it is done regularly, it is a great exercise for the mind.

In the 154 posts published since the beginning, my blog has evolved – a lot. I admit, I originally had no real focus and mostly expressed personal opinions.

I realize my style is a mix of situational analysis (analytical-mind), philosophical perspective, suggestions and advices sometime using humour to convey my message.

Finally, my most popular posts were:

  1. How I failed as a Product Owner and the lessons I learnt in the process
  2. The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Applying Game Theory to Agile Contracting
  3. My Virtual Bookshelf
  4. Less projects were reported to be successful in 2008
  5. Scrum Artifact: Burn Down Chart

In order to improve my blog moving forward, I did a 1-year retrospective and I asked myself 3 simple questions.

What do I feel I did well?

Although there were times when I didn’t publish for a few weeks, I remained committed to maintaining the blog. Not all posts have the same depth but I try to share my perspective and discuss a different way of doing things with the objective of improving people’s quality of life at the office and improving the return on organizational investments.

What do I feel I didn’t do well?

Until I decided which track to follow, I wasn’t focused. It was difficult to retain readers since they didn’t know what to expect.

What do I need to start doing?

Increase collaboration with other bloggers and stay focused on the topics of innovative management, new organizational structures, and leadership.

Do you wonder why your boss doesn’t show up at your meeting?

This is not an un-usual situation. You call a meeting that you deem important. You invite the right people to have a constructive conversation in the hopes of coming to a decision that will be accepted by most. You planned everything ahead of time in order to maximize your participants’ “Return On Time Invested” (ROTI).

Before the meeting and without further information, your boss tells you that he won’t be attending your meeting. You try to get over the inital disappointment and frustration in order to answer the nagging question that pops in your mind “Why doesn’t my boss show up at my meeting?“.

Assuming for a minute that this is not due to an un-expected situation and that you were told before the start of the meeting – being told during the meeting would add insult to injury by showing a lack of respect.

I can only think of 2 reasons to explain that behavior:

  • The decision for which you are meeting has already been taken or will be taken behind closed-door.
  • The decision is not important for your boss.

Either way, this demonstrates that your boss doesn’t care about the decision stemming from the meeting. Although that is frustrating and wastes people time and energy, it is not dramatic in itself. This becomes a problem because of the lack of communication around your boss’ decision not to attend the meeting.

You may not be pleased if your boss tells you that the decision has already been taken but at least, you wouldn’t feel like an idiot when you realize this fact after you put your time and energy in the meeting.

Now, let’s give this situation a different spin and imagine receiving the following information from your boss before your meeting:

  • My absence to your meeting does not indicate that I do not believe in the value of your meeting;
  • I trust the group and their collective intelligence to make an informed decision;
  • I am confident that the participants will challenge each other and will have good discussions;
  • I want to prevent the debate from revolving around my opinion, which could bias the conversation;
  • I prefer to support individuals with my expertise rather than take decisions for them.

Would you still wonder what your boss’ intentions were? Wouldn’t you feel good? Trusted? Motivated??

If you manage people, don’t let them wonder about your intention. Tell them the reason behind your actions.

Yoplait’s “pineapple-coconut-banana” yogurt doesn’t contain coconut!

I was living in the now this morning. One of those zen moments. I was sitting peacefully, eating a yogurt. My wife was at the grocery store, my daughter was at her painting class, and my son was still sleeping.

Since my brain wasn’t jumping around with various thoughts, I was really tasting the yogurt.

“Hmmm, it’s delicious!”, I thought to myself. It was the first time I tried this new flavor.

“It tastes like pineapple with a hint of banana…”.

“Interesting, the label says pineapple-coconut-banana but I can’t taste the coconut!”.

“Let me read the ingredients. Skim milk (that’s good), Sugar (really, 2nd ingredient), pineapples (yes, that makes sense), bananas (yes, that also makes sense)… Colour”. I got to the last ingredient and realized there was no coconut in the yogurt. None!

Why would they call their yogurt pineapple-coconut-banana if there is no coconut? Why not simply pineapple and banana?? Is the simple fact of adding coconut to the label enough for people to believe there is coconut and actually taste it? Is this simply a case of misleading consumers? I wonder…

I guess living in the now does bring us a better perspective of the world around us.

Yoplait's pineapple-coconut-banana yogurt

Yoplait's pineapple-coconut-banana yogurt

Where is the coconut?

Where is the coconut?

Scrum daily stand-up meeting. Can you stand-up for something important today?

If you are using Scrum and Agile within your organization, you already know about the daily stand-up meeting and the value its brings to the team. Many organizations who have not fully adopted Scrum still find the stand-up meeting to be extremely useful when done properly – but this is not the objective of this blog post.

We have just released a really neat ipod touch app – the _agilely Timer. No, this is not a shameless plug but a way to help people in need. As part of the Agile Tour, Pyxis has released a timer application that allows you to efficiently facilitate daily stand ups, roundtable discussions and manage timeboxes. For only $1.99, this is a great way to help FIAN since all revenues will be donated to this organization that “fights hunger with human rights”.

Go ahead, get this neat app and stand-up for something today.

Buy it now - only $1.99

Buy it now - only $1.99

_agilely Timer to support FIAN.org

_agilely Timer to support FIAN.org

For only $1.99, help fight hunger

For only $1.99, help fight hunger

ipod touch and iphone timer application

ipod touch and iphone timer application

Want to know more, you may be interested in this blog post in French or the English version translated by Google.

How can someone Join a Community? Can people leave a Community?

Joining a Community is Simple

Everyone can ask to join a community if it is open to integrate new members. Once again, the community decides how many members it will allow and which skill set, profile and experience is required to qualify. Assuming the community is accepting new members, anybody who believes they meet the requirements may ask to join the community.

Leaving a Community is Simple

Based on the norms established by the community, people may leave with (or without) advanced notice. Communities are usually fluid and allow for members to join and leave in order to support the emergence of new ideas and new energy to reach the set objectives.

In order not to disrupt significantly the activities of the community, members are usually required to provide advanced notice to the other community members.

The Community May Ask People to Leave

Norms vary for each communities but in our situation there is a fundamental rule that states the “no single individual can have authority over another individual”. As such, community members cannot be expelled or fired based on the decision of a single individual, including the community leader. Community members who fail to comply to the norms and values of their group may be asked to leave if the majority of community members support the decision.

As in the case of a voluntary departure, the community is required to provide advanced notice to the member they wish to expel.

For more content on the topic of communities, you may follow the community tag.

Why didn’t my plant tell me it was drowning?


The problem with slow feedback loop

The problem with slow feedback loop

I recently re-read The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. Peter Senge talks about the impact of feedback loops in individuals and organizations’ learning process. Feedback loops (aka retrospection) are also critical in Scrum and the Agile approach.

What does this have to do with my plant you ask? Simple. I was the victim of a slow feedback loop myself and it almost killed my wife’s beautiful Azalea.

A few weeks ago, I bought my wife a beautiful Azalea for our anniversary. It was in full bloom. It was simply beautiful!

In addition to looking very nice, the salesperson at the flower shop told me it was low maintenance. This is a key feature for us since we usually don’t do very well with house plants. I bought the plant and took it home.

Following the instructions, we would add water every few days and made sure the plant didn’t have too much direct sun light. One morning, we noticed some of the beautiful flowers were starting to dry out. Experience tells us that when something is dry, you add water – so we did. We increased the frequency of the watering ritual from once every 4-5 days to once every 2-3 days.

Much to our surprise, the situation didn’t improve. Actually, it was even worst, more flowers were drying out – so we thought, let’s add more water. We moved the plant next to the kitchen sink so we would remember to add water every morning when preparing coffee. A week passed by and the results got worst. In addition to dry flowers, the plant was loosing all its leaves. It started to look pretty bad.

While I was preparing coffee this morning, I went to add water to the plant only to discover that the plant was immersed in water. There was so much water that it covered the earth in the pot! S*%t! We are drowning the plant!!

Then it hit me. Because we weren’t getting any obvious feedback, we assumed what we were doing was good and we continued until it was almost too late. Had we had indications sooner that our actions weren’t the right ones, we could have changed them and possibly address the right issue.

This is exactly what we teach our customers and what Peter Senge was explaining. Without rapid feedback loop, it may take a while for people to realize they have been doing something wrong.

What Rules Do Communities Follow?

The answer to that question is simple: NONE.

It is not that communities are disorganized and chaotic but Our Communities do not follow rules as they are currently understood and documented. The Merriam-Webster dictionnary defines rules as “a prescribed guide for conduct or action” or “the laws or regulations prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members“. By that definition, rules are very strict and typically defined by the leading members of the group.

Our communities use norms to organize themselves and ensure common understanding. As per wikipedia, norms “are the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors“.

Each community defines its set of norms under which they wish to operation. To ensure the community is linked to other communities, the group must ensure their norms are inline with the norms of the greater community to which they belong.

Some norms may be identical for all the communities (i.e. freedom of expression) while some communities may have specifics expectations (i.e. specific time commitment).

Typically, more norms are required at the early stages of a community to create a common culture and set of values and to prevent abuse. As the community matures, less norms are required and the community self-regulates. It is critical for the norms to be clearly communicated at the entry point in order to avoid misunderstanding and confusion later in time.

In the end, the level of freedom and the type of structure used by each community is never as important as the results they achieve.

What is a Community?

Before going into the organization, the structure, the rules, and the modus operandi of a community, I must start with a definition to allow for a common understanding of what I will be discussing in the various posts on this topic.

Definition

A community is a group of individuals who share common values and culture, who operate within agreed upon self-defined norms, and that work together to achieve a goal. Members clearly identify themselves as belonging to the community.

A community can be composed of smaller communities and communities can be connected together creating a network of communities.

Examples

The Open Source movement qualifies as a community. Within the Open Source movement are smaller communities such as the Apache HTTP Server, the Linux operating system, and the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Crowdsourcing is another example of a community of individuals coming together to perform a specific task.

From an art perspective, Community Theatre is an example of individuals contributing to developing and performing art within a specific context.

Community and Business?

In an attempt to document an alternate way of structuring for-profit organizations, I will share my thoughts on the structure, the rules, and the modus operandi of communities and attempt to demonstrate they can effectively be used within that context.

More to come…

Non Traditional Organizations – The Community Structure

A few weeks ago, I presented the organizational structure used for our Monthly Strategic Meetings. Since then, I had the opportunity to read: The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What MattersThe Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, and The Right Use of Power and attended an interesting session at Agile 2009.

As I was walking the kids to school one morning, everything fell into place. Communities could be the new way of structuring organizations.

Most organizations are still structured around hierarchies – top-down command and control structures. Some have move towards a matrix type organization and very few organizations adopted other types of structure. As part of an ongoing experiment, we (at Pyxis) are trying to move away from traditional organizational structures while still remaining a profitable organization. Evacuating the financial aspect might allow for even more creative organizational type but generating profit is one of the constraint we are dealing with.

In an attempt to provide information about the Community Structure, I will add content in various blog posts over the next few weeks with the objective of documenting what it means to operate an organization as if it was a community of communities.

I invite you to share your thoughts and experience on this topic.

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