The Secret of Success

Recently, the stellar community of Ottawa Agilists gathered to share stories about Agile regrets and success. The first session was hosted as a “fail faire” and the second session was hosted as its’ counterpart… a “success faire”. As an outcome, we attempted to gather the “lessons learned” and “secrets of success” for each event respectively.

Having hosted both these sessions, it was interesting to me how much harder it was to root out the source of success over the lessons learned. In part, this came from the participants themselves… story tellers were more apt to share directly what was the cause of a failure. Success stories were related in more detail about “what happened” rather than “what exactly made this work”.

This got me thinking… why don’t we pin point the source of success with the same attention and effort we do causes of failures?

Could be that we don’t analyze success with the same interest because… well, it worked… what is there to analyze further? Sure, I get it.

However, just like not all steps undertaken when we make a mistake are necessarily causes of our failure, not all steps that were undertaken when we succeed necessarily meaningfully lead to our success.

And just like we identify root causes of mistakes so that we don’t repeat them, we should seek out the root causes of success… so that we can repeat them.

2013 Retrospective

At this time of year, it’s worthwhile taking stock of our lives… to do a retrospective of sorts. To collect both accomplishments and gratitudes for the year….

Tip: Skip past the bullet points if you are quickly seeking the punchline.

  • I received generous support and guidance from @eegrove who helped me to define the role of an Agile coach within the context of my work at Corel.
  • I spoke about UX from a developer’s point of view at NSNorth. I also met and reconnected some dedicated iOS / Mac developers and had a few pints with some brilliant people.
  • I joined an excellent group of volunteer organizers at Agile Ottawa and co-hosted a Fail Faire event with @BillyGarnet and@simbourk.
  • I attended Agile Coach Camp Canada in Toronto, where I gave a lightning talk on Agile Teaching and proposed and lead an Agile 101 session.
  • I completed Coaching Agile Teams training with @lyssaadkins and @mspayd. This class helped me to better understand, take ownership have confidence in my skills and abilities as an Agile Coach and, looking back on it, was a life changing experience for me.
  • I started to blog and am proud to say that I’ve put together 18 posts that I feel add value to the Agile community in their own small way.
  • I created and gave a presentation that summarizes 6 different software development methodologies in under one hour using nothing more than a marker and a whiteboard as a visual aid. I’m happy to say that the feedback from this presentation was very positive.
  • I helped my former team at Corel to complete a significant re-architecture of a large legacy code base. I also created a spirit of collaboration, sharing and trust on the team by facilitating, coaching, mentoring and teaching Agile values, principles and methods.
  • After being laid off from Corel in early December, I interviewed at a few startups and, while the job hunt continues, this experience has given me the opportunity to meet some energized and inspiring folks doing good work.
  • I’ve received career and life coaching and support from my dear friend @spydergrrl … over twitter, over the phone and over lattes.
  • On a personal note, my 4 year old started school this year and it’s been a pleasure to watch her grow out of a toddler and into a little girl with thoughts and opinions all her own. I feel privileged to be part of her journey through life.
  • On another personal note, to my partner in love and life… it’s been a year full of distractions, but I’m lucky to have someone that I can be completely honest with…for all the good, the bad and (sometimes) the ugly sides of me.

So what does listing some my accomplishments and gratitudes do for me? It helps me to take a deep breath when I feel that I’m not fast enough, smart enough, energized enough, or <enter perfect person quality here> enough… I can tell you that I will be coming back to this list a few times during 2014 to remind myself that I am… indeed… enough… and that I am very very lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people.

What improvements would I bring forward to 2014? Clarity, simplicity and courage in my own thoughts, words and actions. Love, compassion and respect to those who matter in my life. Mindfully choosing with awareness where I give my energy in those empty hours when I’m all alone with my own thoughts.

Ok… well… maybe these are more life goals than yearly goals… but if Agile has taught me anything, it’s that when you are faced with uncertainty, you need to be able to lean hard on your values.

Wishing you the very best in 2014. Thanks for reading 😀

A Retro on Retros

It seems clear to me that a lot of us out there don’t like retrospectives.  Ok… maybe you are an Agilist and you actually love them (me too)… but I feel pretty safe in saying that this feeling is not shared by all the members of your team.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately and it seems to me that this “not liking” aspect can be broken down into two categories.

Retrospectives make me uncomfortable.  Examples of this would include: “I have trouble speaking up in a group setting.”; “I  have difficulty seeing different points of view especially when they are at odds with my own.”; “I don’t want to create conflict or hurt someone’s feelings.”

Retrospectives are unproductive.  Examples of this would include: “I prefer to focus on my core work than retrospect. That’s where I feel most productive.”; “What we talk about at the retro is less important than what I’m working on right now.”; “We talk and talk, but we don’t actually do anything.”

I would say that most participants in a retrospective will identify to some degree with the “uncomfortable” and / or “unproductive” views of a retrospective.  Rather than viewing this as a problem to solve, I would suggest that these “dislikes” are an opportunity for the team to explore with curiosity.  So consider…

Making retrospectives comfortable. Consider on a personal and team level: “What needs to happen so that everyone can engage with the activity?  What are different ways that we can share ideas, sample different points of view, and be at ease with different attitudes on the team?”

Making retrospectives productive. Consider on a personal and team level: “What needs to happen to make these gatherings productive? Are we talking about the most important problem impacting the team’s ability to deliver value?  If not, then what will it take for us to do that? How do we hold ourselves accountable to our decisions and actions coming out of the retrospective?”

If the retrospective is generating some dislike on your team, then perhaps the time has come to have a Retro on Retros?

In the spirit of beginning…

It seems apt, as this is my first post, to take a moment to simply acknowledge the spirit of beginning.

Beginnings are full of anticipation and promise.  Full of potential and opportunity.  Looking forward to something new and revealing, beginnings are full of creative energy.

I’d like to extend this idea to the rituals Agile teams experience regularly.  Thinking about “stand-ups”, “planning meetings” and “retrospectives”, what would change if we approached these gatherings in the spirit of beginning?