Personal improvement

Dear Kalle and Matte,

So, I have been thinking about this a lot lately…

Quite a while back I had a sort of epiphany to do with continues improvement (CI), I decided that CI was the true key to successful agile implementations, after that I started to see the need for this in everything I looked at, especially myself. But for this post I will focus on my role and a Scrum Master/Agile Coach.

So, there is a lot of places I want to practice CI, and I have had some limited success with this… Monthly meetings with the Scrumbeers group let’s bounce ideas off people, get feedback and think about new approaches… But, it’s not enough!

The issue is 2 fold:
1) Motivation and focus:
I basically know I need to spend some time reading blog posts, books, attending conferences,  probably a lot of other stuff… But I can’t seem to get my butt in gear and do it. I was trying for a while to read 1 fiction, then 1 agile book… The problem was it was always easier to read a fiction after a hard days work. I am thinking what I need is a solid plan of how often to spend on what. Like 2 hours book, 1 hour blogs a week. And 2 conferences a year… Or something along that line… Then I have to work hard on focusing myself and doing this. Thoughts? Maybe if we vowed to do something as a group? (Could include blog posts here)

2) What do I do!?!
There is soooooo much out there, it is really difficult to decide what to focus on. I tried looking online for a Scrum Master development path, but got no good results from that (Aside from the certification path). I feel I need to set some goals and limitations on myself, while at the same time leaving time to explore and examine ideas I would not normally…
Anyone got ideas about what to focus on? I have too many ideas is my issue…

So, what do you guys say? Who wants to commit a few hours a week to personal improvement? Or, do you think this needs to be a personal journey?

Also, any of our other readership is invited to weigh in on this conversation!

Jeff

Public Speaking, Terrifying and Rewarding!

Hey guys!

So, as you know, I have recently began teaching classes on Agile methodologies at quite a large organisation. And I wanted to share some of my feelings about this.

Some background:

So far, I have taught about 5 classes, all on the subject of Kanban, each to a group of about 20-40 people. These people work as IT delivery outwardly to the rest of their organisation. They are unsurprisingly overworked, and receive more requests then they can realistically deal with, all of which are HIGHEST priority… So, all in all, a completely typical IT teams.

Before I started, I assisted in a 2 half day classes with someone who had been doing this for a while. (The best possible thing I could have done!)

My first class:

The first day of standing up there was absolutely terrifying, at least right up until the point I started speaking. Also, a side note, I woke up sick as a dog that day and really never should have left the apartment, let alone stood up and spoke for 8 hours.

So, as I said, I was extremely nervous in all the time leading up to this day. I was barely able to sleep for several days before hand. I tried practicing by myself in a room about 20 times, and I can tell you that this only served to make me more nervous.

However, the night before I practiced on my girlfriend, which went a long way to making me feel better. The problem with working alone in a room was, I got no feedback from participants and nothing to work from, so, I was basically trying to read a prepared speech for 4 hours’ worth of class, and every time I stumbled was completely devastating, because it seemed so huge without anyone there.

When I started to practice with an audience, I suddenly had engagement to work off of, and that made a major difference. I felt more like an expert, and was able to tailor my approach to meet the needs of the people I was speaking with (in this case, 1 person) So, when the day came, I was terrified right up until I started speaking and then it all dissolved. I realized very quickly that I did indeed know what I was talking about, and the audience was engaged enough to help me find discussion points whenever I ran dry.

My second class:

Each class was broken in to 1/2 day segments, so when I say 2nd class I mean part 2.

On the second class, I went completely the other way, I did very little preparation and decided to let the classes questions drive the discussion more (they had been using the stuff from the first class for about a week, so they had a lot of questions.) While I feel these were also successful, they were less so… I think I needed a little more “go to” material to bring a bit of order to the discussions. These discussions tended to get off topic, and felt less professional.

The conclusion:

Prepare a lot, but not too much!

Remember that you are indeed an expert in your area, and will be able to deal with the unexpected.

When you need to stall to think, ask the class a question 😉

Now the important part!

The reward:

The first reward was simply pulling off the class, realizing it went well.

But after that came the real reward, seeing that you got through to some people. I should be clear, the majority of people you spoke with, most likely went back to doing exactly what they were doing before. But there were a few people in every class who you could see you really reached, and that was a amazing feeling! To feel you inspired someone, and maybe made a small difference in the world was one of the nicest feelings I have ever had. I can only imagine how it feels for school teachers to see!

I love doing this work, and apparently I am fairly good at it, the classes gave me an average score of 5.2/6 which is apparently extremely high.

It is extremely exhausting, to attempting to make 20-40 people enthusiastic and engaged, and is often times terrifying, but also the most rewarding work I have ever done.

I suggest you all try it; I personally can’t wait to get better at it!

Jeff

The exception

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Re: visualization post – Colleague drew this during a discussion and there was a lot of pointing going on – imagine having that conversation without the visual aid! *shudder* Misunderstanding time!

People just can’t ppt, wtf!

Hey Kalle,

I just realized – people at my work suck at Powerpoint! Great ideas gets lost in there. You know that sinking feeling when they switch slides and you see 12 bullets with more than 300 total words staring back at you? I get it all the time. It’s a shame, because most of my colleagues have great ideas in there, but I lose interest when they start semi-reading from each slide, especially since I’ve already glanced at their text block and gleaned the gist of it ages ago.

I think the skills to visualize your ideas should actually be something that you practice if you have a job that require communication. And what job doesn’t in our part of the business? I’m no Powerpoint star, but I just reduce my slides to have less than about 10 words (one concept usually) on each, add a couple of pictures or illustrations that I picture-Google for (with clever use of keywords like “icon” and the size selectors) and doing this I get noticably more attention for my presentations and ideas – a bit undeserved just because I can structure my ideas into ppt.

What would happen if I really got into sketching and drawing and invested some time getting better at that instead of getting better at my main skill set – web tech, managing, coding etc? Did you ever see Tobias’s scribbling notes during meetings at Lavasoft? F-ing pieces of art! Illustrations, typography, composition – omg. You could scan those things and illustrate your point so much better – and better yet, inspire!

There is a whole movement behind this idea, and actually even professional people acting as graphic note-takers now(!). I know, crazy right, but check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID0Nwxyl5eY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efCiPNjEC0I

(Also, this might be one of the best book ads ever:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMCVkyRHbjk

Why not think of visualization (and presentation) skills as a multiplier to your message or idea – regardless if your idea is grand or tiny, a good multiplier can only help in making people understand it better, right?

See you tonight,

Mattias