1 December 2017

Want to Make Change Happen & Stick? You Have to Try a Community-Driven Approach. It's a True Challenge!

You are in the business of Change1. You are influencing the change of people's behavior and/or processes2. You have many tools in your toolbelt to introduce change, make people aware of the change, help them through change, let them experiment with change, and even empower them to be the change themselves.

You are knowledgeable about different strategies including but not limited to McKinsey, Kotter, ADKAR, Deming and even Lean change Model. In some circumstances, they worked really well, and in some, they didn't bear the result you intended. I don't want to debate on which is better than the other or give you hints on when to use which3. However, I want to introduce you to a concept that can greatly improve your ability to influence, drive and make change happen. It's the one and only Community!

Let me ask you a question. How many times have you considered yourself part of a community? How many times have you felt the need for a community? I bet there were even times you were part of a community and didn't realize it until some time.

Picture 1 - A Happy Community
As humans, throughout the history, we relied and continue to rely on communities for many reasons. It might have been because of satisfying our basic needs, helping each other, built around an interest, or even virtual communities. No matter what format and shape a community take, it is a very powerful social tool to rely on.

So why are we not relying on them even more? What is holding us back thinking and relying on them a lot more when it comes to the change space? Why communities are not our go-to solutions?

You might think there might be consequences. There isn't! There is no real harm in building and flourishing communities. A community will self-correct (evolve) itself or even die out naturally if the need is satisfied. You don't need to worry about it a bit. You just need to let go. It is not hard to build a community. It only takes someone to initiate it (i.e. a community initiator) and someone to follow that person (i.e. community member) around a similar need, which they want to be satisfied. For such a cheap investment, why are we not building them more often? You might think a successful community is a community with lots of people involved. I wouldn't agree with that. A successful community is a community. Communities are successful if we (i.e. people in & around the communities) don't tamper with their lifecycle.

We need to build communities more and more often than ever. What I would like to propose to you is a challenge. Whatever change you are working about in your role, I want you to think of a community-based solution as your go-to solution. I want you to think of solutions that have communities built-in into them. It might not be easy to initiate a community, start it, support and nurture it, and even let it evolve. That's why it's a challenge. For doing so, let me introduce you to the definition and lifecycle of a community.

Definition of community below is the one that I like to use.4

The figure below illustrates the lifecycle of the community.

Figure 1 - The Community Lifecycle

I do not want to go into all details of this illustration. I just want to talk about the most important point in the lifecycle of a community, the Evolution. As you can see, there are many directions that a community can take from the Evolution stage. And that's the main challenge working with communities. As a person with an interest in a community, you would want to shape the community in a way to have the shortest loop possible after the Evolution phase. You would want the community to be in the loop of "Motion-Evolution", rather than "Evolution-Start", and rather than "Evolution-Initiation".

The challenge here is not really how to start or build a community. The main challenge is when the community is in Motion, how to understand its needs, how to support it, and how to nurture it. How can you make the shorter loop exist? The shorter the loop, the less community member you lose, the more momentum you have and more people's needs are being satisfied.

Communities are very fragile. They need the correct type of support5. Many people, in and out of the community, can affect the community in positive and negative ways. It doesn't take that much to see a community fade away. Without the right structure in place that let the community to go through its natural lifecycle, you won't be having a community at all. You might have a group that you are calling it a community.

I would love to hear your thoughts on communities. Even better, if you give it a try to build one and what you learned from it. At last, we are all part of the community that helps each other learn more about communities.

1- You are even if you don't believe that. The only constant is the change in the world we live in, and you are a part of it!
2- You might direct a change, focus on the process v.s. people or many other approaches you might take to introduce change.
3- Even if I want to, I  don't consider myself qualified and knowledgeable enough to do so.
4- Part of Community-Driven Change talk, as presented with my colleague Shawn Button at AgileDC 2017.
5- The best type of support which as a person you can provide for a community is to take part in it, or even better coach people of the community and facilitate sessions for the community.

14 November 2017

Ask Questions, Please!

If you learn one thing from Problem Solving Leadership Workshop, it has to be asking questions. There are lots and lots of information available out there. And not all can be transmitted to you in at once. Even if it could be, the order of transmitting the data might not be aligned with the order that you are familiar receiving them. There are so many things that could go wrong, which could potentially add to the complexity of effective communication. For an example, it could be the words that are being used, they might not be in your vocabulary, or there are words that you are not commonly using it. You might need to think about the semantics when hearing those words, which will result in losing the threat of the conversation and transmission of data.

You would ask, then what shall I do? What’s the best1 course of action here? The best way is to Ask Questions2, in your own time and your own format. The person replying to you might get tired of answering you, being polite helps a lot. If they have other occupancies in mind, seeing you as a polite person, their inner voice pushes them to respond back to you, or at least not ignore you.
When you are asking questions to have a more effective communication, you ask it at your own pace, and with the style, you have or choose to use. You might be more of an explorer, to ask one question and wander around to find out more information about yourself. You might be the chatty person, that want to get all the information by having a conversation with a person. You might be unique, and not any of these; surprise surprise!
Any style you might have, you always will benefit from asking questions, and keep in mind follow those with a "Please". You can be polite other ways, such as asking "Would you mind ..." or "If it's no bother you can you ..." etc. But what's the point of using more words when you can simply use "Please" and carry the same semantics? "Please" will send the message very directly. It transmits the message to any person, even a little knowledge of English language. Everyone knows what "Please" means and how to respond to it.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Let me tell you a personal story. I met Jerry as a result of taking PSL course. I purchased two books from him. I had with me the one that I already read and enjoyed, “Becoming a Technical Leader”. He asked me which book I want him to sign. I handed him the "Becoming a Technical Leader". But I wanted all to be signed, “The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully”, and “Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method” too.
Guess what I did? I asked him, and Jerry signed all three books! Imagine if I didn't ask him, I probably never had the chance to have all of them signed. He also could have turned me down, but at least I have asked. When you ask, there wouldn't be any regrets no more. If I hadn't asked, I would have asked myself probably for the rest of my life about it. How many times will you get the chance to meet such a great person in your life to let is pass.

I’d like to practice my questioning skills If you don’t mind. It's now my time to ask a question from you. Can you think of a situation that you could have asked the question and you held back? What were the consequences? Please share it with us.

1-There is no best! We are in a complex domain! Link to the Cynefin blog post of mine! 
2-If there is only one takeaway learned from PSL, would be Ask Questions! 

31 October 2017

Coach Retreat Fall 2017 - Clean Language & Balance

Clean Language

In the first half of the coach retreat, we practiced clean language.
Clean Language is a technique that is used especially in psychotherapy and coaching, and more recently as a research interview technique. Clean Language helps clients to discover and develop symbols and metaphors without any content introduced by the therapist/coach/interviewer.
Mike Bowler facilitated the session. We have gone through a coaching scenario on how to ask questions on clearing the language. It really helps build reputation with the coachee in the explorations phase. These were the clarifying questions we asked.
  • Developing Questions
    • What kind of X (is that X)?
    • Is there anything else about X?
    • Where is X? or (and) whereabouts is X?
    • Is there a relationship between X and Y?
    • When X, what happens to Y?
    • That’s X like what?
  • Sequence and Source
    • Then what happens?
    • What happens just before X?
    • Where could X come from?
  • Intention Questions
    • What would X like to have happen?
    • What needs to happen for X?
    • Can X (happen)?
Keep in mind, It has to be your Metaphor to work! Otherwise it won't!


In the second half of the coach retreat, we practiced the Balance method from co-active. Peter LePiane facilitated the session and helped us to go through that. We practiced it using a scenario in mind, and looking it from different perspective. The idea was unique and somehow controversial to me. It was controversial in a sense that the coach is bringing bias to the conversation by introducing, or better saying suggesting, perspectives.

For detailed instruction on balance, you can visit The Balance Formula at a Glance.

10 October 2017

Coaching Triads - The Most Effective Way to Practice Coaching in a Safe and Confidential Space

Coaching Triads are a setting in which you can practice coaching and get better at it. It requires a safe and confidential space to practice coaching. So be clear about that.

How does it work?

In three rounds, you practice coaching as a coach, a client, and an observer. In each rotation, you play a different role. I always suggest that the coach becomes the observer in the next round and so on. There is a detailed illustration below.

What’s your role?

As a Client

  • Bring a real issue - choose something that is current and relevant to you. Something that you haven’t found a solution to it already. Do not bring in old problems that you have solved. 
  • Remember the point of this is for the coach to practice.

As a  Coach

  • Coach!
  • This is a safe space to try new and different styles of coaching, tools, and techniques and to take some risks.
  • Be clear about your intentions.
  • Be open to feedback, do not try to resist it and defend yourself. This is valuable information for you to improve on and grow. 

As an Observer

  • Remember, you're observing mainly the coach, to provide him with valuable feedback. It will be very valuable to focus on the coaching relationship and the client. However, don’t let that take your focus away from giving most of your attention to the coach.
  • Don’t interrupt the coach. Don't offer suggestions to the coach or the client.
  • Take notes of what appeared effective in the session. Write down specific things the coach said that were very helpful.
  • Provide feedback to the Coach at the end of the session. Use specific examples and try to focus on both positive and constructive feedback. 
Figure 1 - Coaching Triad - Suggested Rotations

20 September 2017

My Notes from Professional Scrum Product Owner

I have participated in a two-day course on Product Owner. These are my notes on the course.

Day #1
  • Prioritize v.s. Order
    • There could be many priority ones, there could be only one at the top when ordering
  • Task management, I have not heard that in Scrum.
  • Change is not free, there is a cost associated with it from many different directions.
  • Agility hopefully speeds up learning
  • If no one is using your product, it is unsuccessful
  • Product Manager v.s. Product Owner (in small organizations one person)
  • Ideas
    • come with an open mind, leave your daily life outside the door, at intervals lets go grab those and bring them in!
    • "How is it in my life?" Board: To have a board for people to discuss and put ideas on how it is in their lives.
    • Lean Canvas start with a problem, give them problems or a scenario or ask them to bring one of the challenges to the table
    • Felt like you needed to have experience with Business Case to go through Lean Canvas.
  • The more we work on Sth, the more we love it.
  • Debrief
    • What was that activity/conversation about?
    • What was brought up in the conversation?
  • Measurements are not to set the goal!
  • EBMgmnt Values!
  • Time to prototype ==> innovation metrics!
  • Product Box
    • Small space
    • Everything on a box, no interactions
    • Try to sell
  • Pitch to get funded
    • Large investment
    • Interactions
    • Lots of questions
    • ROI Qs
Figure 1 - Reasons to Pursue Agility
Figure 2 - Entrepreneurial Product Owner (&why it's hard to be one)

Figure 3 - Pin the Scrum! A great facilitation tool to teach Scrum

Figure 4 - Pin the Scrum in action
Figure 5 - Scrum in a nutshell
Figure 6 - Various ways to sort requirements
Figure 7 - Product Backlog with depth (top down, left right) i.e. Story Map
Day #2
  • Debrief 
    • How those conversations usually go?
  • Stacey Matrix: 3 Pillar of product development
    • Technology
    • Requirement
    • People
  • Idea 
    • Thermostat/Temperature Exercise
    • Keep at 37C
    • What are the factors?
  • Scrum Values:
    • Courage
    • Focus
    • Commitment
    • Respect
    • Openness
  • Stories to be easily consumable by the development team!
  • Excellent PO
    • Empathetic
    • Listening
    • Goot at debate
    • Good negotiator
    • Manage up
    • Articulate well
    • Work with people (customer)
    • Say No
    • Failed before and proud of it
    • Clarify well
    • Think & say what they want
    • Able to trust people
    • Do not attack people
    • Ask Questions
    • Decisiveness
    • Critical Thinking

Figure 8 - Product Box 1

Figure 9 - Product Box 2

Figure 10 - Product Box 3
Figure 11 - Lean Canvas + Product Box 4 
Figure 12 - Lean Canvas 2

Figure 13 - Lean Canvas 3
Figure 14 - Product Backlog

12 September 2017

The Role of Empathy in Leadership

"Everything is personal", Mo started his presentation by saying that. He was supposed to talk about Leadership, Empathy, and role of one in the other.
He took us through several exercises that gave us insights into empathy. He debriefed each exercise by asking the question similar to "What would you think the other person was thinking about?". This is Mo's presentation.

These are the summary, instructions, and debrief of exercises he facilitated.

  • First Exercise 
    • Handshake
    • 30 seconds to stare at each other
  • Second Exercise
    • Tell me the truth
      • Hypothesis question, what the other person feeling?
  • Third Exercise
    • Tell me about a time you scared/failed
    • That reminds me of the time...
      • It's not about the stories but the sharing of feelings
One comment that I made was that his exercises made us to trust the person we are talking to. It will be very hard to replicate that in a work environment. 

Figure 1 - Listening without Bias
As part of being a good leader, you need to listen. The above pictures show anti-patterns of listening actively, or as he put it mindfully listening (v.s. radically listening). It is a good rule of thumb for you to be self-aware.

Figure 2 - Wheel of Emotions 
Working on your empathy, one can think of different emotions. When you become angry, ask yourself am I angry? or am I annoyed? or am I disturbed? Try this with other emotions as well. This helps you immensely in developing your empathy. You won't be able to empathize with other people if you don't know what exactly they are feeling.

This slide reminded me of my blog post about "How to Use Check-In Protocol to Incorporate Feelings in a Retrospective". I relied on different names of colors to convey the message that we need to work on our communication and be aware of it as well.

This great presentation was sponsored by Shopify and was hosted at the #TeamLeadTO group. By the end of the meetup, you could see empathy is way more personal that you thought of. You need to work very hard on it if you want to be a good leader. The exercises helped us a lot to have a conversation about not our feelings but what we believe the others are feeling, and practice our empathy toolkit!

28 August 2017

Coaching on Goals

Coaching is a great skill to have. However, it is not easy to start with nor to master it. You can develop your style by learning it, practicing, listening to the feedback and learning from your mistakes. It is yours if you want to develop, how to, and to what extent.

If you are one of those people looking to improve your coaching techniques, I want to introduce you to a set of questions I use for coaching on goals. I am specifically not calling it coaching for performance. The reason being, as a coach going into a coaching conversation, you don't know what the coachee brings up.

These are the 6 questions for coaching for goals:
  1. What crossroads are you at? (Small Talk)
  2. What topic would you like to talk about? (About what?)
  3. What's the goal (that you want to set)? (About what?)
  4. What are you at now? (It's About Them)
  5. What does it take from you to achieve your goal?  (It's About Them)
  6. What are your options? (What's Next)
  7. What are the next steps? (What's Next)
  8. What will you do (& by when)? (Reflection) 

The advantages of these questions:

Focus on the Goal & Focus Fast
  • If you don't have much time, this is a very easy way to focus on the outcome of the session. Not all of us have an hour to spend in a coaching conversation. Using the GOAL question, you easily focus on the person's goal. However, you need to always to keep in mind that the first thing the coachee is answered is not the ultimate thing they want to bring up. You might come back to this question again and again after discovering underlying layers of the answer.
  • This question also equals to asking the question "What do you want?" or "What more do you want?". It helps the focus to be changed from the situation to the person. As a coach, your role will be to ask more questions to make the shift in focus happens.
What's a good Goal?
  • I'd like to make sure we are focusing on a goal that is inspirational, challenging or positive at least.
  • I'd also like to keep the coachee honest for their goal on being a SMART goal.

  • Keep in mind different levels of Goal too. Depending on the engagement, you might be able to peel into different layers of the goal.
    • Dream Goal: 
      • This is where you, as a coach, focus on the bigger picture. To look at all that is happening for that person at the same time from a bigger lens. 
    • Targets: 
      • This is where you help the coachee to focus on the achievable. What is needed to get to the Dream goal? This step makes the Dream goal more realistic.
    • SMART Goals: 
      • This is where you help the coachee to come up with SMART goals.
What are you at now? 
  • Try not only to focus on the facts and the situation but on the feelings and emotions too. A very powerful way to help a coachee is to ask them about their feelings at the moment. 
  • A rookie coach might be fearful to ask that question and get there, as it is opening new territories for the coachee.
What it takes from you to achieve your goal? 
  • This is again to get the coachee back on track of focusing on them, rather than the situation
What are your options? 
What's the next step(s)? 
  • These two questions are very dependent on the situation of the coachee and the relation with the coachee. An option might be to find help, and the next step might be to find that person. In another situation, it might be all detailed out by the coachee and clear to them what's needed to happen next. 
What a good conversation?
  • Active Listening: 
    • As a coach, you want to listen and actively listen! You need to pay attention to all the coachee is saying, revert back from any judgments or providing any solutions, try to be in their space with them. 
  • Curiosity: 
    • Be curious about the situation and themselves. Be genuinely curious, do not try to lead them by asking questions. Do not try to give them some similar situations that you had or heard about from your other clients. 
  • Powerful Questions
    • Try to ask powerful questions. Powerful questions are questions that open up the person, help them look beyond the current layer of reality and discover what's more important to them. A yes/no question is usually considered not a powerful question. 

21 July 2017

Simple Lean Coffee Flowchart

Introducing Simple Lean Coffee Flowchart V1.0, what I have created for describing Lean Coffee to engineers, including myself, and others. This is a simple version of Lean Coffee. There is no dynamic time allocation happening. I will create another one for that reason.

Lean Coffee is a very basic way to manage a discussion, get together and talk about different topics.

If you want to facilitate a meeting, I would suggest you take a look at the Better Meeting Canvas.

You can find better visualizations than a flowchart on Lean Coffee, the one that I recently noticed and liked is Lean Coffee by Jan Ernsting.

20 July 2017

My Notes from Agile Coach Camp / Spark the Change

Community: not competing for resources, no anger or hostility, we're in this together

Mark Bowden:
Facilitation Notes:
  • Have a conversation with me! 
  • Hand gestures
  • Moving in the crowd, and moving! 
  • Voice up & down. 
  • Look at many! 
  • Humor!
Hair is a history of your health and diet!
We consistently create behavior to create advantages
Optimism has been ... for our brain stem cells => we are pessimists
Brain cells no history, no memory
no ... for many years for survival
No one ever listening to you, they are always judging you!
Brain is a guessing center, the better it guesses more chances you survive
Your guess is based on your ideas of me
We change ideas
Change is extraordinary and because of that you have to do extraordinary behavior
Environment decides your behavior
If I control my environment, I can decide as who to show up
Insufficient data you default to negative
Your environment decides most about your authentic you than everything else if affects your behavior the most
your language predicts and omits if decides based on behavior
--bias remorse

19 June 2017

My Notes on Situational Frontline Leadership

The level of competence v.s. the level of commitment
  • be prepared to be called upon if I don't hear from you (facilitator technique)
Self-esteem includes:
  • Your self-worth
  • Your self-respect
Self-esteem at work influenced by
  • The thing you say to people
  • The way you treat people
Self-esteem builders
  • Providing sincere and specific praise
  • Asking about a work or personal event
  • Asking for ideas
  • Describing the specific contribution brought to a task 
  • Listening & acknowledging concerns 
Self-esteem is how u feel about yourself.
It is your confidence in your ability to handle life challenges

Trust is personal and its definition is different from one to one

leadership is what you do with people, not to people!

On Listening
Listen when your tendency is to
  • Reject
  • Ignore
  • Defend
  • Disagree
  • Take it personally 
(Coaching Tip, this is where you need to grow)

1 June 2017

My Notes on Change Leadership 2017

Paul Alofs

  • Transformational change needs disruptive leaders!
  • You can never step into a river (the same) twice.
  • Disruptive leaders most valuable asset? Passion Capital!
  • To read: 
    • J&J Creed 
    • Deloitte Change Survey

John Maxwell

  • One man with courage is the majority!
  • If you are good you don't need an introduction, and if you are not it won't help you.
  • A level-2 leader listens better and in depth. 
  • Get off vision & focus on culture. Vision is what you want to see, culture is what you actually do.
  • A level-2 leader is a terrific servant leaders.
  • When you stop loving people you should stop leading them.
  • A level-3 leader has moral authority.
  • If you want to be a leader get good at what you are doing. People will line up to be your follower.
  • A level-3 leader lead by example. He/She leads out of what you learned today, not yesterday's. If latter, you are a history teacher.
  • Momentum is leader's best friend.
  • A level-3 leader attracts better people.
  • For level-4 leader reproduction is key
    •  On level 3 you add On level 4 you compound
  • Level-4 leaders are best recruiters Good at training & equipping people
  • 5 step equipment process (simple)
    • I do it (& be good at it) 
    • I do it & you are with me 
    • You do it & I will be with you 
    • You do it 
    • You do it & somebody else is with you (The Magic Step).
  • For level-5: people on company put you on this level
  • Their response is based on what level they are on with you.

Jeremy Gutsche