#Womeninagile #agile2016 : What was in it for me?

I was heading out to dinner with  a few friends who were participating in Agile 2016  and one of them exclaimed,

“Gosh! I would have so loved to attend the Women in Agile workshop. I was already here. I had not paid, and was not sure if I would be allowed. So I did not attend”.   I                      then asked her,”What would a man do?” And then we had conversations around this for a few more minutes.

This is exactly why we need a ” Women in Agile” workshop, and more of them. To remind,  to educate, to extend an helping arm, to help a women  discover and learn her own strength and expand her capabilities.  In some way, we need to begin “thinking like a man”; After all we are living, struggling and surviving in a world built by men. The Agile world co-exists in organization structures and its DNA, where we need to discover, nurture and expand more women thought leaders, including business and IT leaders.

An email invite to participate in the  short 4 hour Women in agile workshop was quite irresistible for me to pass up. The workshop may have been intended for the Agile 2016 conference attendees, since it is held in the same location, same time frame, etc. As  a non attendee to the larger conference, the 4 hour session offered a safe environment, and just enough conference energy that I was open and ready to receive and share.  It gave me just the right atmosphere and environment to plant the seed of becoming relevant and reinventing myself all over again.

As we remembered Jean Tabaka, her kindness, and her way of coaching, it offered me an another opportunity  to re-establish my self identity, claim myself as a woman in IT – Because I am here – because I have chosen to be here. I know I have so much to offer. I have so much to learn.

As Cindy Moore spoke about her transition to Agile, I see a world filled with opportunities for women working alongside with their male colleagues not just as allies, but as comrades and team mates. Women executives, coaches and Scrum Masters are not embedded in teams to be passed of as someone who takes notes, or just sets up meetings. She comes with clarity of mind, and has her own strategies for planning or execution or to meet a release deadline.  She knows to interpret data.

While in breakout sessions this is what I heard from other participants about a Woman in Agile:

-She will bring with her skills that she discovered and learnt while bringing up her children, either as a single parent, or as a family with her husband or wife.. But bring she will and it is time we begin taking notice.

-She recognizes that she is not ‘fighting a battle’ for just one skin color or race. Recognizing that women of all colors, race and culture are equal, she raises her voice for all of us. She wants all women to reach out and ask for help or offer help – to mentor, to be mentored.

-She wants to create an environment of learning not just at her work place; but at schools and colleges – so that the child that will become a women one day gets her grounding early on. She wants to coach women to express their ideas,  become excellent speakers, who in turn will create more energy and set a rippling effect.

-She understands what softness is. What firmness is. She wants to explore Agile career paths. She is curious about how other organizations create women thought leaders. She wants to network. She wants support. She wants to support. And again, men are not just allies. They are partners, ‘comrades’.

And we as Women in Agile want to gain momentum, sustain and grow.

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I have had the opportunity to observe Natalie’s passion and dedication to Agile in the past few years, and her keen sense of building a community around the struggles of women in Agile.  Agreed, that not all of these struggles are due to gender inequality, but calling this out specifically will allow more organizations to open doors for Women thought leadership.

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What was in it for me?

I found  a sisterhood. Found a band of hearts, ideas, thoughts that resonate and will journey together..

See you all in Florida for Agile 2017, as we see our ideas take form, and as we plant them right now, right here :):)

Happy journey Sisters!

 

 

 

#Sanantonio agile meetup: Meeting #agile leaders of the future

Our June session lead Craig Patrick was speaking about setting up a sprint  workflow.  San Antonio Agilists Chris and Clint joined us.

As I listened to Chris and Clint, it  became quite clear to me that:

“I was interacting with agile leaders of the future”. 

This awareness helped  me listen, question and respond to them differently. Their issues revolved around identifying tactical solutions. Their energy and passion to learn, and to adopt the principles of agile in its truest sense was quite gratifying.

They understood root cause of issues;  Their questions to Craig and I regarding retrospectives, feedback loops, sprint lengths, releases, features was from “a place of we are here right now… how do we solve this?” and “we have solutions, let us validate”

In addition they believe in story boarding, feature driven delivery and above all they believe in their teams.  They had the right mindset. They did not attend the session to complain. They came to validate their home grown solutions;  They came to share their experiences and to be acknowledged and accepted by their agile peers!  They are forging ahead as leaders in their own right. Will the agile community accept their solutions? Will the community allow them to lead?

Both Clint and Craig will be presenting at our meetup in July and August. Join us to acknowledge their intelligence, solutions and recognize them as part of our community of future leaders.

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Where experience speaks:

Craig walked through the 3 levels of scrum adoption with his teams, and level #3 is the ultimate statement “We want to adopt scrum”, “because that is the right thing to do”.

Level 1:  Lets do something. Let us move away from waterfall

Level 2:  We are not ready to let go of the chaos we are in. That is our comfort zone

Level 3:  Yes, let us adopt scrum

Craig will revisit his topic in September as a follow-up to his presentation in June.

(If you hear Craig using the word “dinosaurs”, he probably speaks of IT veterans with more than 3 decades of experience, including himself!)

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Receiving a #highfive from a techie

I have a compelling desire to share this:

I knew that the Verizon store was in and around that area. I just couldn’t find it. GPS was not helping. Thus I  called their customer service, and they connected me to the store.  Ugh! it was tucked away in the only corner that I didn’t look, and a 1 minute drive from where I placed the distress call.  Feeling quite miserable that I was about to ‘appear in person’ to a group of techie folks, who may have felt sorry about my lack of direction savvyness and were probably expecting me to discuss an  iPhone error that I could have fixed at home..

I walked into the store quite bravely with my head held high (above normal heights probably!)

After the necessary introductions and getting the issue resolved (thankfully it was not me. It was an hardware error!),  I decided to buy a bluetooth. I just couldn’t use the tiny one that I had bought a couple of weeks ago. It lacked elegance, even though it was mostly for connecting to a couple of handhelds that will read through the BT onto my iPhone

I chose TonePro, fell in love with it.  Then, a thought occured to me.

“Can I be online with two phone lines at the same time?” I asked

“Do you want to speak on two lines at the same time?” was the response.

“No no. no. no.” I said.  (Possibly animated vigorously by a stereotypical Indian nod?)

“I am just wondering if this can be detected by both my phones at the same time, or should I turn off one BT , to use the other phone?

“We have never tried” he said.

So we decided to check. We got the blue tooth detected on two iPhones. Yes it worked on both phones. We could receive incoming on both.

YAY!  exclaimed all of us.  “High five to you”, they said. “We discovered a feature that we never checked before”

I walked out the store with my head still held high. Higher perhaps.

Constraints within constraints! #agile #scrum

I travel for work. Do I claim that I do not have a choice?  NO. I do this with a belief that I am creating  many future possibilities for my ‘career growth’ . I really do. I travel not with vengeance or anger.  Not with the intention to prove a purpose. I travel with the belief that this window of opportunity lined up due to constraints and restrictions that overlap with other constraints for others. When constraints overlap in real life they merge. A constraint for one person is the perfect opportunity for another.

I do not even want to elaborate on the lessons I am learning as a single mother in balancing career (including carving time for learning, budgeting, picking up new skills, being in touch with the professional community) and returning to  family life  during the weekend (time with my children,  time with friends, time for myself, and recognizing that I need to be the mom-dad role to children even when they are young adults!)

In this scarce space for time, I still decide to facilitate the Agile meetup at Geekdom in San Antonio during Saturday afternoons frequently.   Saturday is not a good day for a professional gathering. Especially during the middle of the day. But that is the only time I have.

Not being in San Antonio during weekday evenings to schedule sessions and meet a larger population is my first constraint

Scheduling the session on a Saturday afternoon is the second constraint

And now that downtown free parking spaces are dwindling and folks pays $10 and above is a bigger third constraint

In addition, people who show up must be beating similar constraints of time, cost, priorities etc.

Given the constraints for everyone who shows up I am sure you can recognize my sense of responsibility , commitment and a strong desire to ensure that who ever shows up leaves with some value addition. That is my promise to them. Sort of an MVP for them.

During the end of 2014, in a particular session, there was just one attendee and I. It was one of the best sessions of 2014. I recognized the joy and satisfaction he derived from discussing risks, prioritization, negotiation and communication that happens with his team.   That day I was a great listener. Clearing  questions about agile and agile transformation was most rewarding. Helping him identify opportunities to enable conversations was most joyful.

And then another opportunity came by this afternoon…. After finding a very small window of opportunity in their day filled with many obligations and time constraints… when two people showed up, our conversations were powerful yet gentle and full of kindness.. I felt the power of constraints. And then I also recognized the super power of people who create windows of opportunities in these constraints and navigate them.  It seemed like we 3 created the perfect opportunity merge and overlap our constraints to create a perfect learning opportunity for each one of us.

I have begun to love and cherish constraints. They unleash something new in me. Something different. Something very creative and positive.

Scrum: Lessons from #leancoffee for team communication

As most Agilists know #leancoffee is a savvy and simple technique that we use to facilitate a session  focusing on top priority items first / and time boxing  conversations.

To the group that met last week in Geekdom, #leancoffee was new. And to some of them Agile was also new, and the “Aha” moments experienced by Rob were the best of all

Everyone wrote the topic they wanted to discuss on individual sticky notes.

And then we went around the circle briefly introducing / describing their topic of interest

Rob went last. And he seemed quite disappointed. “I don’t even have to speak about my topics, others have already spoken about it”.

I was planning on discussing the theory behind ‘visibility and the work place’ and why sessions like these get us into the habit of practicing them but Rob provided me an opportunity to speak sooner:

“Rob, that is exactly why we write our topics down. Everyone gets to make their topic of interest visible.  It is okay that you went last, but that does not mean your ideas are least valuable, or you didn’t get to introduce, or didn’t think about what you wanted to discuss and why you prioritized.”

“In old fashioned meetings, many folks don’t say anything, because someone spoke about their topic. Unfortunately, sometimes it creates a reputation that they have nothing to say. And those folks who spoke first, they continue dominating  future meetings as well.  What we are doing today, is to make an individuals thought process visible and allow everyone to see (notice) first hand their interest. Now if someone has already introduced your topic, when it is your turn, you can make everyone aware that was your interest as well and add on to it. ”

“And if your topic did not get voted up, then you and the other person who wanted to discuss the same can meet later”

We then proceeded to dot vote, and complete #leancoffee.

 

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LeanCoffee @Geekdom

Team communication is all about being heard, listening and understanding the flow of work, and how it fits together. It is about “not living in the head”, but making  thoughts visible, inviting immediate feedback, allowing the thought process  to change, and the team adjusting to the new thought process;

In Agile projects communication is not about conveying or exchanging information. It is about creating opportunities to be understood; It is about developing earliest possible moments to “sense”; it is about paying attention to the signals that are available, and working on them at the appropriate moment

 

 

Conversations with a team member: Yes, #agile and #scrum are new to me. But…..

Even coaches have Aha! moments.  And that moment  can be a joyous one. It happened  to me recently, and I felt a great desire to share it with the community.

I am  known as a coach who enables JIT training; I also believe in group learning, because we are inherently intelligent and we absorb learning when it is felt and not just intellectualized; I have realized the amazing potential of pervasiveness, and when harnessed correctly, transformation is  a joy to watch.

Here is a conversation with a team member:

Me:  Hi, You are new to the team. We started off with a  one-on-one Scrum framework  recently, since you wanted to get that curiosity satisfied. I am sure you have more questions. What would you like me to help you with right now? And in the process we can also discover what we must do.

Her: I think I understand a little bit. I also noticed that some ceremonies that you spoke about do not occur until next week. And I am not in a rush to know more about them. I am used to work being given to me, but now I have to generate it side by side with the business.  That should be okay, because  when you mentioned that we work on one small bit at a time – it caught my attention, and I am looking forward to it. So that doesn’t bother me. In fact it is a relief, because beginning next week I am here, with all of you. Doing just this piece of work. I am also going to learn a new technology. I am also going to be mentoring others about what I know. This is exactly how I like to work. I am happy to get rid of a lot of “stuff” that we did in waterfall. I have thought about the idea of thin slicing all week. Then I remembered that in earlier projects, many years ago.. we pushed to production every 2 to 3 weeks.

(She continued providing more feedback for a while longer; Weighing in on the pros and cons; Thinking about all the adjustments she has to make. She looked around the new work space. It was open and inviting. Many passers-by were curious. She must have made a mental note of how to scale down her personal belongings from her previous cubicle to this new Agile open area; and many other adjustments she might have to make soon)

She sighed and said, “This is not that bad”.  And smiled, and said “This is not bad at all” and continued:

You see, “Agile and Scrum” – They are new to me. But change is not.

I bring with me decades of professional expertise. I have survived layoffs, survived time between jobs. I have punched cards. I self taught coding very early on because no one wanted to code where I worked then!  Put me in a place and allow me time to learn; I pick it up. And once I learn, I teach. I mentor. That is what I am.

I looked at her, and replied very lovingly:  It is an honor to be coaching professionals like you; working with you side by side. Do we ever have to be concerned that anyone else on this team will have inhibitions about shifting to Scrum? They will just absorb what you are. How you carry yourself. How you be.

I  had just met yet another Star Woman in Agile.

#agile2014 #product discovery

YES!  it is time to discover more about your product. This years’ #agile2014 track on working with customers – is bringing to us many creative sessions on product discovery, customer interaction and product owner.

My topic The Ultimate Enchantment: A product whispers toBusiness and Product Development teams  is aligned towards the creative process of uncovering our perceptions about the product. It enables an understanding  of why this knowledge is useful for the individual and how it benifits the team, the product and the customer.

During the session, I hope that each individual is able to articulate and realize

1. Their relationship to the product  they are currently engaging with  (or an idea they have)

2.  Their levels of passion

3. Their levels of  ownership

4. Their depth of knowledge about the product

And finally, why and how this knowledge can better equip them to build / serve or retire their product!

Here is a quick conversation with my friend Alan Dayley, as I explain the essence of my session:

In additon:  Here is the link to the conference presentation on slide share:

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So get the caffeine going and join me 🙂