The Number One Mistake You Make When Trying to Change Your Organization’s Culture

The biggest mistake people make when trying to change their organization is to barrel forward without establishing a high sense of urgency in fellow managers and employees.  This is a fatal error.


Transformations always fail when people are complacent

Judy was tapped to head up a new transformation initiative for her company.  She was smart, she was motivated, and she was dedicated.  Moreover, she was able to see a lot of the problems under the covers that would derail the company in the future.  She saw it as her personal mandate to ensure success.

She worked day and night to launch new initiatives to help the organization “take the leap”, but she realized few others saw the problems, or the potential upside of successful change, in the same way she did.  However, she failed to see this as a failure mode for the change efforts.


As a seasoned executive, she knew she could push people to get on board or replace them outright if they didn’t get on the bus

In the 3 years after she was put in charge of this new transformation initiative, she watched all her efforts get gobbled up by the complacency machine.  No matter how much “carrot and stick” she tried,  she couldn’t even make it past the first phase with any level of success.  The changes to the organization took so long to implement, competitors could easily react to the changes.


Because she couldn’t establish momentum fast enough, funding for her change initiative was cut

Even the reorganization she proposed was talked and analyzed to death.  Eventually, she gave up and moved to become the head of a new division that was already successfully implementing a lot of the ideas she was trying to push forward in the broader organization.  Unfortunately, over the next two years, she watched, horrified, as the broader organization (with little sense of urgency) ignored all the powerful lessons that could be learned from this upstart division.


And instead, the larger organization stifled the innovation and flexibility of this new division

Smart people like Judy don’t create enough urgency at the outset of business transformations.  They over estimate how much they can force the changes and underestimate how hard it is to get people out of their comfort zones.  They don’t understand how their own misguided actions can uphold the “business as usual” mindset.  They’re not patient enough.  They are intimidated by making the hard choices that can lead to a downturn in short-term results.

Click here to find out why this happens

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5 Ways to Create a Sense of Urgency for Culture Change

Creating major change in an organization is tough. The change process in the context of any business transformation is even more tricky.  And for that, you will need to create a sense of urgency.   Creating a strong sense of urgency requires bold, if not risky, actions that we normally associate with good leadership.

We typically don’t see real leadership because companies are mostly “overmanaged and underled,” and having “everything under control (managed)” is the central value. It’s hard to get someone to take bold action if they have been rewarded for 30 years for being cautious and prudent. Here are some ways to establish a sense of urgency:


1. Create a crisis by making an organizational failure very, very visible

Most companies try to hide, obfuscate, or downplay organizational failures. An example would be missing a key product delivery deadline because of gridlock in the legal department. Instead of chalking it up to “that’s just how it goes sometimes,” focus on it, talk about it, force conversations about it, and use it as leverage to shock people into talking about change.


2. Share data about customer satisfaction and financial performance across the organization

This is another area where I see obfuscation. How on earth will people feel a sense of urgency if senior management is always telling everyone, “Things are fine”? Share this information across the company so that everyone is talking from the same point of reference.


3. Insist that people talk regularly to dissatisfied customers, unhappy suppliers, and disgruntled stakeholders

“But that’s the job of customer service!” We are all customer service. Have developers talk to dissatisfied customers and they will learn more in a five-minute conversation than in a month of customer satisfaction surveys. Have the CEO take a few customer service calls. Have everyone share the pain. Again, this serves to put everyone on equal footing in understanding where the shortcomings are, and it increases the urgency level.


4. Put more honest discussions of the firm’s problems in company newspapers and senior management speeches

American corporate culture tends to do a lot of cheerleading when things are going well, and a lot of cheerleading when things are going poorly. Your employees are not children. Be honest, air out the issues, and ensure that they are talked about every day and are at the top of everyone’s agenda.


5. Bombard people with information on future opportunities, on the wonderful rewards for capitalizing on those opportunities, and on the organization’s current inability to pursue those opportunities

Make the pain and shortcomings visible. This will serve to incite people to ask why, and this will activate their competitive streak to try to go after these market opportunities. Urgency increased! Creating a sense of urgency plants the seeds of successful change.

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How to Manage Remote Stakeholders During a Sprint Review

Herwig said,

Some stakeholders of our project are often abroad, but want to join interactively the sprint review. I’m of course in favor but I’m looking for appropriate tools to facilitate this.

Hi Herwig,

Sounds like you have a common constraint. There is more than one way to solve for this kind of problem. No matter what the method, the goal is the same: To help the remote stakeholders understand what was done and to ensure their voice is heard during the interactive session. Here are some suggestions.

Create a pre-staged video of the demo and send it to them before the interactive session

One of the challenges of group sprint reviews with a conference call is that the conversation and q/a becomes very ad-hoc. The people on the conference lines often can’t hear the side conversations and don’t get the full benefit of the in-person review. Sending them a pre-staged video of what will be demo’d will help them to more easily be able to follow along with the real sprint review. The questions they will ask will be based on them getting a first-hand view of the new features without the distraction of 10 other people in the room or a clunky video signal.

Have the demo-application deployed in a place where the stakeholders can explore the new functionality themselves

If your teams are mature enough to have designed-built-tested-documented-integrated code, you should be able to make the application available in a non-production environment so the remote stakeholders can click around for themselves and test-drive the new features. This will also help them to be able to follow along with the sprint review more easily.

Create a high level “outline” of the features to be reviewed

Distribute this outline before the sprint review. In my experience, not every stakeholder is interested in every feature. Having a “program guide” of sorts will not only help them manage their time and engagement but also help the team sequence the sprint review with a disciplined approach.

While we would love to have our stakeholders in the same room for the sprint review, in 2015 its often not possible. Hopefully some of these tips will help you overcome the distance constraint.

I hope this information was helpful for you. Click here to download more information on managing remote stakeholders.

Until Nex Time,

Stay Agile, My Friends


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The 4 Obsessions of Hyper-Effective Engineering Leaders

I have occasionally helped companies recruit engineering leaders.  When I facilitate this process the first thing I want to see is the job description as it appears on the various recruiting sites.  Yikes!  Looks like you took all the skills from all the people on the team, rolled it up and said “Yep, the Engineering Director needs to know how to do all this” (c#, c++, java, hadoop, html5, NodeJs, AngularJs, Bigtable, Photoshop, CSS, Predictive Analytics, robotics, firmware engineering, chip design).

“Yes, but why?”

“Because the Engineering Director needs to understand what everybody else is doing.”

No.  The Engineering Director needs to understand what the business outcomes need to be, and create an outcome-centric environment for everyone to understand them and achieve them.  Meanwhile, he needs to be able to offer support, context, guidance, and resources to empower his teams to be successful.  Being a rockstar engineer and being a rockstar engineering manager require 2 different sets of skills.  There are very specific skills you should look for when hiring engineering leaders, and here they are.


Obsessed with recruiting top talent

It’s not about putting out a requisition and choosing the best resumes.  Its about creating and sustaining an external talent pipeline… before you have a requisition.  Peter Bugnattos, Strategic Sourcer at Lockheed Martin remarks,

“It isn’t about just finding resumes.  You have to understand the needs of both the candidates and your business and make the stars align when the timing is right.”

This is important because:

  • The people you want the most are not actively looking for a job.  The best way to get first dibs is to really understand who they are and what they’re passionate about
  • If you want until you “need someone” to start looking you are already too late.  By the time you need someone, the situation is dire, the recruiting effort is rushed, and the candidate is “late” the moment they walk in the door.
  • You get to vet candidates over a longer period of time.  Making a hiring decision based on a 30 minute interview (alone) is a horrendous way to make a hiring decision.

Unless they want to be stuck micromanaging and running projects themselves, your engineering leaders should be obsessed with recruiting top talent.



Obsessed with growing and developing existing talent

A huge pain point for many leaders is finding talent with the appropriate mix of skills and experience to make an immediate impact on the job.  Companies have been on unicorn hunting expeditions for a long time, and still have not been able to find the right candidates for the right roles at the right times.

There are a few solutions to this problem:

  • Grow your own talent.
  • Hire for the current challenge to be solved

Finding the balance between hiring external talent and developing internal talent is always difficult.  Unfortunately, most companies neglect to develop internal talent at all, which leaves them scrambling to fill leadership roles and makes those who are passed over frustrated.  Companies who are successful at growing talent create clear expectations for what it takes to reach “the next level” and create a transparent timeline to reach those goals.

Another problem that plagues companies is to find “unicorn leadership” that has the exact same blend of skills as the outgoing engineering director.  Instead, understand the current challenges that need to be solved, and hire people who have a track record of solving those problems in a major way.  It doesn’t matter that your last Director of Software Development was a math Ph.D. if the most pressing problem you need to solve has no relation to linear algebra.


Obsessed with creating teams of people who can get $h!t done

Its not just about people who are incredibly effective, its about finding people who are incredibly effective at the things you need them to be effective in…TOGETHER  How do you find people who can get $h!t done?  Create your job request as a list of outcomes and goals, rather than a list of daily activities and responsibilities.  Then, when you interview people, you will be looking for clues as to HOW people have accomplished similar goals in the past, and over what timeline.  As Yishan Wong, former CEO of Reddit says,

“The way to assess if someone is good at getting things done is to see what things they’ve gotten done.”

Then you need to hire leaders who understand how to create outcomes and goals then find people who have a track record of reaching similar outcomes in past roles.


Obsessed with building a learning culture

The ability of an organization to quickly learn and incorporate the lessons into execution is a class A competitive advantage.  Jack Welch postulates, “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage”

Alex Weinstein, head of product development at Microsoft Live Labs, makes the argument,

“You should not hire for specific skills (e.g., Java, Hadoop, Oracle) but the ability to pick up new skills… a high velocity of learning is a core competency of the team”

Why the obsessions?

Because its very easy for engineering leaders to be pressured in to focusing on the wrong things.  Creating “obsessions” around the 4 critical levers of technology leadership ensures focus, creates a learning environment, and supports business outcomes.  Hire talent.  Develop teams of people who can get shit done.  Steer the ship by providing business context and constraints  Build a culture around continuous learning and improvement.  Understand where the strategic and the technical intersect.

Until Next Time,
Stay Agile My Friends

Download a Sample Director of Engineering Job Description


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Best Practices for Agile and Outsourced QA Testing


Outsourcing was one of the most powerful technology trends of the 90s and 2000s.  Its promise was clear:  Knowledge work with knowledgeable people at a lower cost than having the work done in the United States.  Many larger companies got the message at the same time and outsourced en masse.  As of 2003, McKinsey reported in its article Offshoring:  Is it a win-win game?:

Offshoring will allow the US to capture economic value through multiple channels: Reduced costs, new revenues, repatriated earnings, and redeployed labor

Meanwhile, at around the same time, Agile and Scrum were gaining steam, albeit starting from smaller firms and working up the value chain.  This brings us to today where organizations want to become more Agile but still continue to work in a geographically distributed environment.

While Agile purists tend to be against outsourced QA testing, its a stark reality for many companies.  The decision to outsource may have long predated the decision to transition to Agile.  Given this constraint, its much more productive to talk about how some companies are getting the best of both worlds.  Here are 3 best practices for getting the most from your Agile efforts and your outsourced qa testing.


Improve communication and decrease hand-offs

Use video technology to bring the distributed team together.  While email is perfectly fine to fill in the gaps and provide additional detail.  There is nothing that can replace face to face interaction.  Using tools like Google Hangouts or Skype, you can approximate the high bandwidth communication that you get with co-located teams.

A headache associated with geographical distribution is meeting times.  A solution is to alternate the time of the team’s daily standup every sprint.  One sprint use a time that is convenient to the onshore team (and let offshore suffer late nights/early mornings).  The next sprint use a time that is convenient to the offshore team (and let the onshore team suffer late nights/early mornings).

Julian Clayton, VP of Product at FieldLens, a communications platform for the construction industry, remarks, “do not underestimate the need for
an internal QA lead. Even with only moderately complex products it can be nearly impossible for an external lead to keep up with the day to day
changes in the fast pace of an agile environment”


Create a clear separation of testing concerns

A challenge with marrying Agile practices and offshore arrangements is that when there is a single deliverable that needs to be developed (onshore) and tested (offshore), you are adding in another step to be able to deliver a “potentially shippable” product.  With every issue, you add 24 hours of delay.  No good.

The alternative is to create a clear separation of testing concerns.  Engage onshore developers for verification testing via automated unit tests (using an xUnit framework).  Engage offshore testers for validation testing (e.g., performance/integration/exploratory testing).  This will eliminate waiting for initial verification testing, but still ensure the more robust validation testing still happens, using your offshore testing experts.


Enforce modern engineering practices

Companies tend to focus more on “process” based solutions when there are many technical solutions to enable you to get the most from your offshore partnership.  Two crucial engineering practices are continuous integration and automated unit testing.

Continuous integration describes a practice by which code is integrated and a new integrated build is created upon each check-in.  This ensures the system is always stable and any integration related issues are immediately visible.  Tools such as Jenkins, Bamboo, CircleCI, Team Foundation Server can help with continuous integration.

Automated unit testing is a practice whereby developers create code to test the code they have written.  This creates an ever-growing regression suite that grows as the code base grows.  When you combine it with continuous integration, you create an extremely robust “always on” quality framework that runs and reruns every automated unit test every time any code is checked in.

If you want to enable the best practice of “follow the sun” workflow, continuous integration and automated unit testing are must-haves.


Doing more with less

Agile and outsourcing are not as diametrically opposed as they first appear.  Both practices reflect companies’ attempts to do more with less.  While one is rooted in predictive planning and the other is rooted in adaptive planning, there are still ways to make them work better together.

Until Next Time,
Stay Agile My Friends
PS, Get the cheat sheet for Agile with Outsourced QA Best Practices here


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How to Write a Scrum Master Job Description

When I talk to clients and they start to get serious about their agile transformation, they soon come to the conclusion that they don’t have the right level of experience internally to lead the transition.  I usually recommend they hire an experienced Scrum Master from the market.


Most Scrum Master job descriptions suck

Here is an example..

Team leads for large teams or managing one customer with multiple projects
Responsible for delivery of assigned module/ components /phases of a project.
Responsible for people Management, including goal setting and providing performance feedback
Responsible for Status reporting
Responsible for guiding the development team.
Responsible for estimation, planning and execution  with specific focus on requirement analysis and design
Responsible for Knowledge transfer and arriving at SLAs for steady state
Technical problem solving skills

Employers spend a lot of time lamenting the quality of resumes and applicants, but very little time putting care and diligence into their job descriptions.  As a result, you have job descriptions that looks almost exactly like those bad resumes we get tired of looking at.  Coincidence?  Notice how the job description lists responsibilities, but not outcomes, objectives, or timelines.  This is a recipe for poor candidates.  Why?  Because every candidate, qualified or not, is going to look at the list of responsibilities and say, “Yep, I can do that.” Whether they have experience doing it or not.


Understand the kinds of problems you’re trying to solve

I’m a big proponent of giving people problems to solve rather than solutions to implement.  Unfortunately, most job descriptions are written in terms of “duties” or “activities” rather than outcomes.  This means the annual review process is ambiguous and subjective, since all you have to go on is a list of duties.  If people did the duties, then they will expect a top review.  On the other hand, creating time-boxed, specific, measurable outcomes creates a proper stage for screening resumes, interviews, and annual performance reviews.

Put the problems you’re trying to solve in the job description.  Companies at different points of their transition have different problems to solve.  Companies early in transition will probably need someone to help the teams get off on the right foot.  Companies that have been at it for awhile may have challenges in scaling out to larger projects and programs, while companies that are relatively mature in their practices may need a Scrum Master who can help with the challenge of re-configuring the organization to work in a more lean manner.  Different stages, different problems.


Write your job requirements as a series of timelines and outcomes, not activities and duties

This is why understanding (and prioritizing) the kinds of problems you are trying to solve is so important.  We should be able to map the problems to be solved to the objectives to be reached by the candidate.  These objectives should be SMART

  • Specific – The objectives should be unambiguous and easy to understand
  • Measurable – The objectives should be easily measurable
  • Achievable – Given the objective and the timeline, the objectives should be achievable
  • Relevant – The objectives should be relevant to the problem to be solved
  • Time Bound – The objectives should be time-bound


Bolster the requirements with critical competencies

Critical competencies describe how you expect a new hire to fulfill the job and achieve the outcomes.  Critical competencies are important because they specify some of the constraints around how the candidate is expected to accomplish the outcomes.

For example, if your company is a small company that does not have a change management team, and the candidate is expected to be an internal change agent, but has only worked at large companies with internal change teams, he needs to understand that a critical competency for the job would be:

Influence – Able to influence, persuade, and “sell” at all levels of the organization.

This would be important because if the candidate was used to having a change management “team” and only had the competency of driving change management from the strategic level and not getting down into the details, they would not be a good fit for a smaller organization that does not have a dedicated change management team.


Add cultural competencies to ensure organizational fit

Cultural competencies work at two levels.  They define the skills and behaviors required for a job, and they reflect the broader demands of your organizational culture.  According to “The Who“, 1 in 3 CEOs say that not evaluating cultural fit was one of the biggest reasons for hiring mistakes.  People who don’t fit fail on the job, even when they are perfectly talented in all other respects.  Is your company’s culture formal or informal?  Are decisions made based on analysis and data or gut feel?  While some people might think “Work hard play hard” sounds great, others may think, “Oh geez… I have to work 12 hour days with these people then go out for drinks with them too?”  Cultural fit is very important.


If we expect to get highly competent candidates, we need to do a better job of writing the kinds of job descriptions that will motivate highly competent candidates to apply.  Get rid of the “must be able to work in a fast paced environment” and add some things that really matter to the task at hand.

Click here to get a Free Example Scrum Master Job Description

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How to Take Your Digital Strategy Beyond Marketing and Into Product Development


Let’s talk about digital strategy and why you need one

If you have no clue what digital strategy is, you’re not alone.  Most of the froth around digital strategy centers around marketing, but there is no commonly accepted definition of digital strategy.  So, I will provide one for you.  Digital strategy is “The marriage of strategic insights and technology-based tactics in a digital first world.”  “Digital First”, in a business sense, describes how technology impacts everything about how products are envisioned, developed, marketed, monetized, and consumed.

Having a digital strategy is important because it gives you a stable approach to a changing technology landscape, and it provides a framework to experiment with new execution models while maintaining alignment with strategic goals.


Digital tools and technologies continue to change; Create stability with a disciplined approach

Its a fine line to walk:  Following all the latest digital trends means companies can chase unproven digital technologies down a rabbit hole.  Anyone remember QR codes?  But waiting too long means attempting to catch up in what may be an already saturated space, such as Microsoft and Amazon’s ill-fated attempts to gain traction in the mobile phone market.  Having a digital strategy means having the ability to test, integrate, prove, and ultimately scale new digital tools (and products) in line with their business impact.

In 2000 there was no mobile app ecosystem, there was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, there was no Pinterest, there was no Instagram.  In the last 10 years the arrival of these new tools has created unprecedented opportunities for companies who were able to test these tools, measure their impact, and integrate them into how they do business.  Unfortunately, most digital strategies have nowhere near this level of sophistication and are short sighted


Why most digital strategies are incomplete and what to do about it

  • Most companies don’t have a digital strategy.  They try new tools and techniques in a very ad-hoc way with limited support, sloppy measurement, and unorganized scaling strategy
  • Most digital strategies are silo’d in marketing.  Companies agonize about how to get more “engagement” and “brand mentions”; overfeeding the marketing monster while starving their innovation and product development machines.
  • Most digital strategies do not include product development.  Product development is the “last mile” in your digital strategy.  Whats the point of high brand engagement and 2 way conversations if you can’t convert that knowledge and engagement into products you can sell to customers?


Make sure the digital strategy budget has room for technology and technologists

Allocate 30% of your digital strategy toward the exploration, development, and use of new digital tools.  Create a “team within a team” by embedding a small cross functional product development team in your digital strategy group to rapidly prototype and release products.  This team needs to be separate from corporate IT so they are 100% aligned with the goals of the digital strategy team and don’t have the inertia of existing structures to constrain them

When marketing has an idea, the cross functional product team should be able to work digital strategy to design, build, test, market, launch and measure new product ROI in a matter of weeks.  This will let you codify the process with fewer hand-offs and test hypotheses more quickly.


Look for product ideas hidden in marketing conversations

With all the customer engagement you have, make sure you’re listening.  Often new products and services that customers are willing to pay for are hidden in those conversations.  Follow #hashtags and catalog the kinds of information you see.  Look for conversations about your competitors saying things like, “I wish they could…”, or “It would be awesome if…”, or even “It sucks that they wont….”


When initiatives show promise, scale up

Creating a digital strategy that includes product development means that when a new approach shows promise in key areas, you can scale it up quickly.  Your product development team can operationalize the approach and transition it to corporate IT while they continue to push the edge finding new techniques and tools to evaluate and measure.


Our digital future

The tempo of our digital drumbeat increases every year.  Companies who don’t see themselves as digital first will lose ground as consumer expectations evolve in lock-step with technology availability.  Companies who continue to divorce their strategy from their digital and technology strategy will muddle through, always in reactive mode, and companies who adopt a disciplined yet flexible approach to digital will be able to manage the uncertainty and change.  Welcome to the revolution.

Get More Product Content

Until Next Time,

Stay Agile, My Friends


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Agile HR: How to Bridge the Gap Between “Team Performance” and “Individual Appraisals”


When I work with organizations who are looking for ways to bridge the “collective responsibility” aspect of Agile team work with the “Individual Performance” aspect of their HR and review system, I usually recommend a few concrete steps:


Remove anything from the performance appraisal system that is clearly antithetical to making Agile Progress

Sometimes the HR and people management systems associated with companies in transition has not been updated for a very long time. As such, you might have some artifacts that have been lingering around since the stone age that negatively influence compensation, and thus behavior. Here are some examples.

  • Measuring developer productivity by lines of code
  • Measuring QA productivity by number of bugs found
  • Measuring Business Analyst productivity by length of documents created

The first order of business is to get these relics removed from the system, and anything else that is clearly counter to the current agile effort.


Add 3 additional dimensions: Teaching new skills, Learning new skills, and Performing roles outside your job description

Next is to add 3 dimensions to the current review process: Teaching, Learning, and Performing new skills.

Incentivizing team members to teach new skills has a few positive effects: It spreads skills through the organization, prevents information hoarding, and reduces the risk of only 1 person understanding a certain part of the system, a certain technical skill, or a certain business process.

Incentivizing team members to learn new skills provides a ready audience for the teachers, creates a now cost “knowledge factory” inside the organization, and allows people to learn new skills in the context of what they already know with people they already work with.

Incentivizing team members to perform new skills helps create more flexible cross functional teams, gives individuals an outlet to practice their new skills, creates more flexible career paths, and enables better mentoring inside the organization.

Wrap up

Remember, this is just a guideline to get started.  Most companies understand where they are and where they need to go, but need help in understanding what the intermediate steps look like.


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How to Use Your Agile Skills to Land a Better Job


“I’m the best Scrum Master in this company, and I get no appreciation.  I haven’t gotten a raise in 3 years!!”
“So why are you still around?”
“Because I care and I think I can make a difference!”
“Ok, but what is it that you really want?  Your current company has shown they don’t really value you”
“I want to go to a place where I’m appreciated and I can make a difference”
“Ok, I think it’s time for you to find another job…”


Why we don’t have the job we want

Because we have notions of career progression straight from the 60’s:  “Work hard, do everything you’re told, and you will be recognized for your contributions.”  Let me ask you something, how many of you have done just that… worked hard, did everything you were asked (and more), and sat frustrated while some bozo who skates by on other people’s work gets all the promotions?  How many times have you seen someone who sucked at their job but was great at politics continually get recognized as a “game changer” in your department?  Why are you working hard and doing everything you’re asked while the sociopaths kiss up and get all the glory?  Because the bozos know something you don’t (yet) know:  Visibility is the key to raising your profile and having your choice of great jobs.  All things being equal, hiring managers will hire the person with the most visibility.  Its a branding thing.


Start a blog

When Agile professionals ask me about how to land a better position.  The first thing I ask them is “Do you have a blog?”  If they say yes, I ask them, “When is the last time you have written anything?”  I’m usually met with a sheepish grin.  The difference between those who have high visibility and a platform to continually grow that visibility and those who do not is… consistent demonstration of expertise.  How do you consistently demonstrate expertise?  Consistently write.  So sorry, your blog that has the most recent post as August 2012 does not count, otherwise, you’re “Just another wordpress blog”


Engage with your local agile community

At the San Diego Agile monthly meetings, someone is always either looking for a job or looking to hire.  Those who are looking to hire are looking for ways to find the most attractive candidate.  The best candidates are the ones who are involved.  They are constantly learning from the best in the industry, and consistently refining their skillsets to match those that are the most sought after in the market.  The local Agile community is a great place to let people know you’re looking (then send them over to your blog).



I hear the excuses already, “I’m not an expert… I’m just a .. <insert job title here>.”  There is one thing you are an expert in is your journey.  That is to say even an experience report of your personal Agile journey or your company’s Agile journey.  Some of the best speakers don’t start as experts.  They start as someone willing to share their experiences.  Pro tip:  Start with speaking at your local Agile user group meeting.  They tend to be more forgiving as an audience and you can work out the kinks in your talk.  Speak at other regional Agile user group meetings too.  It helps raise your profile in a broader area, and the name recognition helps when looking for a new position.

Give me the to Growing My Influence

Until Next Time,
Stay Agile, My Friends

Interested in building your profile and influence and getting more speaking engagements?  Download my “Guide to Growing Influence


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The Four Charactaristics of a Successful Agile Change Management Team

shutterstock_220763314 (1)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  A company decides it wants to transform and become more Agile.  They hire an experienced Scrum Master consultant to help lead the change.  They send 20 people off to Agile training.  2 years later, they are bumbling along with a few Agile teams but by no means have they experienced the large scale transformation they wanted.  What happened?  Well, one individual cannot transform an organization, you have to build a team.  Not just any time, the right team made up of the right people.

Here are the four characteristics of a successful agile change management team

Position Power

There are powerful people in your organization you absolutely must get on board with your change effort.  You will need their “juice”, and you will need to keep them from blocking your efforts.

Getting buy-in from senior line-level managers will make it easier for you to influence their direct reports, and therefore the organization as a whole.  This is a technique I call “co-opting the juice.”  As a consultant, I have very little juice, but when I can align myself with those who have juice in the organization, and get them to stand behind my efforts, voila, instant juice!

Another reason to get buy in from the powerful people in your organization is to prevent them from blocking your efforts.  Sometimes change agents feel its enough to “keep certain people out of the way.”  However, the moment they hear of an idea they don’t like or an initiative that could destabilize their organization, they will come in and block it.  You don’t want this to happen.  You want their input and opinion on items that may affect the performance of their group, so you want to get buy in from them and get them on the “change team”, even if its in an advisory role.




You need people who have seen the movie before and help the change team avoid common mistakes.  Usually consultants are brought in to play the role of the expert.  This is fine, but you need different kinds of expertise, and you need to recruit internal experts to help everyone understand the industry, the disciplines being affected, and the macro trends inside and outside the organization.  On the change team you need deep Agile expertise, deep industry expertise, and deep organizational expertise.  That executive assistant that has been around for 20 years through 7 CEOs may be your secret weapon!



No matter what the level of expertise of the members of the team, if they don’t have credibility inside the organization, the efforts will be doomed.  I have seen many organizations take the lower performing members inside various organizations and put them on the change team.  You can imagine how little the team was able to accomplish, because these were people who were mostly ignored inside their departments.  It may seem counter intuitive, but you want to take your BEST managers and leaders and put them on the change team.  By best I mean, “The people who incite the kind of fearless devotion from their direct reports that make them happily swim shark infested waters in service to doing the best they can for this manager.”  Those are the people for whom the organization will be willing to make tough changes.



You will need enough proven leaders on the team to be able to drive the change process.  This is one of the major risks of having a change team consisting of all outside consultants.  They may have proven leadership abilities outside the client organization, but they need to be bolstered by internal change agents with a strong vision and a history of making things happen.  This may be an opportunity to enlist someone with major leadership potential into a new role that will allow them to rise to the occasion.

Until Next Time,

Stay Agile My Friends

PS, Download my one page guide to Building A Coalition That Can Make Change Happen


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