Only Pigs Can Talk

I’m reviewing an excellent presentation [pdf] on the agile software development landscape when two bullet points on Scrum’s daily meetings stopped me:

  • Chickens and Pigs are invited.
  • Only Pigs can talk.

It took Googling to decipher the metaphor.

Though it goes against my earlier stifling team work post, identifying who’s involved and who’s committed is an excellent way to focus energies and keep the project on task.

Take a look at your projects – are you involved or committed? Where can you be more committed and less involved?

Further in the presentation:

“The error [is] typically 100 times more expensive to correct in the maintenance phase than in the requirements phase.”- Software Engineering Economics.

Reminds me of a story in the automotive design world. Traditionally, automotive designs were modeled in clay. Clay hardens as time passes. So, the longer a decision was put off, the harder – literally – a change is. Just because software doesn’t have a physical manifestation, doesn’t mean it’s not as time-sensitive as clay.

Two final bits of insight from the Extreme Programming camp:

  • If the future is uncertain, don’t code for it today.

  • Do the simplest thing that can possibly work

In other words: Do as Little as Possible.

Instructions not Inventory

To create a to-do list reflecting your ultimate goal, we highly recommend taking the advice descibed in Recipes Instead of Lists from Nerdherding for Beginners:

“A recipe will include infrastructure work and ‘planned re-work’ that might otherwise be forgotten the alternative is simpliy a list of ingredients.”

Daily Productivity Tips

We’re working with a number of clients to make their days more effective. One of the smallest, yet most profound changes is making each meeting a working meeting. Though powerful and effective, this technique does go against more than 96 years of conventional wisdom

This technique works especially well for document review meetings – have an attendee, you?, make the changes discussed as they’re decided upon. At the end of the meeting, the document is updated – no longer hanging over anyone’s head.

Another tip – before scheduling an in-person meeting, ask yourself what the quickest, easiest way to accomplish the purpose of the meeting. Can the 1o-member project kick-off meeting be handled through email? Probably. Can a decision be reached by a couple of phone calls? Probably.

Over at Worthwhile Magazine, Anita Sharpe highlights a couple other tips for getting time back on your side.

The 30 Second Rule

If it takes you or your collegues longer than 30 seconds to find a piece of information, then your workplace organization needs drastic improvement.

I recently attended Minnesota Technology’s overview on Lean for the Office. The 30 second rule is a great yardstick to measure your day against.

Extend the principal a bit..if no one but yourself can find the information needed to conduct business, the office is being held hostage, and you can’t take a vacation. Two points that wear down the morale of the workplace.

The Zone vs the Clock

This weekend, we worked on the home renovation – continuously – tiling until we ran out of tile, tweaking the bathroom sink until it stopped leaking. There were no phones, no radios, no email, no meetings pulling us away. We were able to focus on the task at hand until it was complete….really focus. I’m reminded of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research on the subject of work – where he finds that it takes 2 _uninterupted_ hours to get into any given task.

Two hours of not glancing at the clock or checking email or answering the phone.

Compare your daily routine against these 2 hour blocks – does your schedule support you getting into your work? Or is it more about managing distractions?

Many Conversations Converge

After a number of recent conversations with my good friend Chip, where he concisely and articulately restated my thoughts on entrepreneurship and quality of life, I’m directed to this section of Tom Peters’ website, where he declares – as only he can – how offshore outsourcing is not a new problem or something we should be concerned about.

I’d like to personally thank both Chip and Tom for asking the hard – What do you want to do with your life – questions this week.

Thank You.

Learning from Living

Over breakfast this Saturday, my wife and I discussed various home improvement projects for our new place. Very early into the conversation, we realized how little we knew about the house. What’s under the carpet? Can the toilet be moved easily? How long will it take to remove the wallpaper?

Answers that can only be found inside the space – and tearing up the carpet.

One of the principles of Kaizen is to be in the environment you’re attempting to improve.

Yet, many conversations I have with clients, especially early-stage meetings, take place outside of the environment in question. Many teams feel pressure to nail down times, processes, and schedules before their first step into the space.

Veen’s Presentation Tips

I highly recommend Jeffrey Veen’s Seven Steps to Better Presentations

My personal favorites:

  • #3 Don’t Apologize.
    Apologizing for your own performance so directly and swiftly weakens.
  • #4 Start Strong and #5 End Strong.
    I was in a sales presentation recently where the main presenter apologized 5 times in as many minutes. From the audience’s perspective – it’s painful, frustrating, and transforms what could be an engaging conversation into an unfortunate waste of time.

Lunch is the Most Important Meal

In my experience observing organizational behavior, especially start-ups, what happens at lunch is a key indicator of an org’s health. If people go out, for a walk, and talk about non-work stuff – Congrats.

If they brown-bag it and eat alone at their desks – something is very, very wrong

Laurent Bossavit agrees with me (courtesy bBlog). Formally expecting regular lunches with the team is great way to say you care about your org’s health.

I remember one “lunch” I had with a creative director – when I arrived to his darkened, barren office, he was in the corner eating a Hot Pocket off a paper plate. No…he didn’t share. Unhealthy in so many ways.