Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ugly clothing, symbols and values

Here in Indonesia most companies and organisations have some kind of uniform or at least very strict dress code. For example where I work, the Salvation Army, we have Salvation Army uniform on Mondays and Tuesdays, a set batik shirt on Wedenesdays, "pick your own batik" on Thursdays and training clothes on Fridays.

Here's a collage for you to feast your eyes on be scared by, showing some of those shirts:

I must say... most of these shirts I've found really silly and ugly. The don't sit right on me. I feel awkward.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How to make a empty diagram in Excel

If I don't write this down I will forget it before the end of the day. That right there was the reason I started my blog, ca 900 posts ago.

A couple of days ago I was, again, creating a big diagram on a whiteboard. This particular one was pretty high and a lot of data points had to go into it. It turned out to be hard and messy to both update and read.
I have done this so many times that I've lost count. I never found a great solution.
I don't want to use a small A3 report because I want everyone to see it. And I don't want to print a big A1 sheet every day, because it's to expensive.
And I don't want to use a projector because this needs to be physical and tangible. And in front of everyone everyday.

Someone suggested to print an empty diagram in a big size and then laminate it with plastic to be able to enter the data on top of the basic diagram.
"Brilliant idea - let's try it. I'll create an empty diagram in Excel and then we print it!"
I heard myself say. And after ca 2 hours I felt the need to write this blog post

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

...and then it moved - the greatest feeling in the world!

By Ben Currington used under
Creative Commons
Have you ever try to lift a piano?

If you have I bet you have the same experience as me; you go up to the piano and take a good hold and ... nothing. It's like it's boulted to the floor, or something (oddly enough my exact words the first time I tried to lift a piano).

This is impossible. We will never make it.
But you get one more guy and then you make another try. Maybe if someone could just slid a mat underneath ...
And you try again. 1...2...3... and ... IT MOVED!

Right there!

That split second is my favorite feeling in the whole world.
Trying really hard, and get the first little sign of that your efforts are in the right direction. When IT MOVED!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why so sad? Can we point to improvements without making people feel bad?

"Fry complaining" by Umberto Salvagnin,
under Creatives Common
- As agile and lean practitioners, why do we always focus on the negative? "It's managements fault", "This needs to go faster", "The quality is substandard", "You don't use TDD" ... tell me when to stop...
- Because that where we have "unrealised improvement opportunities", dummy!

- But it's not very attractive and makes our "sell" much harder.
- Yeah, but it sucks! So it needs to be improved

- Is there maybe another way to say that so that the receivers doesn't feel that they suck?
- Maybe... but it's very much up to them. They still suck, are they ready to hear it or not? Also, I'm not actually telling them that they suck, of course. I just tell them that "we're looking for better".

- But that means that we're never satisfied.
- No exactly! I'm never satisfied.
- Sucks to be there... No highs... never content with where you are...
- Yeah! That's what makes me great.

I don't know. I just don't know.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If you build it - things will improve; turning visualisations to knowledge

My good friend and cowrite Joakim Sundén has taught a great deal about agile and lean... and a whole bunch of other things too. One thing that he said, early in my journey, that I didn't fully believe was:
It's always interesting to see the spontaneous discussions that appear around a kanban board (or other visualisation)... after the meeting
(Not the exact quote, because that would be much more well put and eloquent but still...).

So Joakim says that just by having a visualisation in place discussions arises. For example, after the daily standup around the board, people linger and discuss about the state of the board, about improvements or other work related things.

Have you experienced that?
I have. Often. Very often in fact. But not always. In this post I'll outline a few things that in my experience makes these conversations happen more frequently and some words on how to harvest this nugget of information making.

(The reference in the title is of course from Field of Dream with Kevin Costner)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ask a simpler question: real data speaks louder

David J Andersson (the father of kanban in the software community) has taught me a lot, and that's probably an understatement too. Because I've learned immensely from him. One of the best hands-on tricks that he taught me was really just one sentence. And I'm not sure he meant to say it at that point, but it's proven invaluable for me:
"Ask a simpler question!"
The longer version is something like: "If you find that you don't get the answers you want try to ask a simpler question". I think this is a general great tip that can be applied in all kinds of situations and contexts, but in this post I wanted to tell you about how I just did that in order to get an entire company to understand their situation and starting to move towards something better (whatever that means, I'll talk about that too).

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Accountability, authority, trust, and all those things

How's that for a little topic to clear out in a blog post? I promise this will be just a short thought... even though the title promise more of a book.

Well, after the last couple of weeks at my work I just wanted to write down a thought that I keep coming back too. I'm very proud to be part of the Salvation Army and right now we have a world wide leader (aka The General) that I think talks about a lot of good things.
Here's video with his latests message:

I like this message for a number of reasons, but the part that stands out for me is "We know we are not perfect. We want to become better. We start Now!" I like that kind of transparency and humbleness.

The keyword in the message is Accountability. I have a bit of a hard time with that word as I think it sends a pretty harsh tone, but it really comes back to where you start.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Luck has nothing to do with it

Have you noticed that people and organisations that are great have a lot of luck? And the opposite is also true: a poorly managed companies are unluckier. In my experience.

Now, I don't think luck has anything to do with it (no - this is not a post about my Christian faith, please contact me for that :)). Which is good news; because that means that we can control it, do something about it.

I'll share a few stories and then some thoughts in this post.

Monday, August 04, 2014

What I've should done - my Jerk-store moment

Have you ever had a conversation and then a couple of hours later you come up with a much better way of stating your matter or a better phrasing?

This feeling is shown to great effect in "The comeback" episode of Seinfeld.

I almost always have those kinds of revolutions after coaching gigs. Sometimes during the gig which is helpful because I then can change into something better. Sadly sometimes after the gig which just frustrates me since there's not much to do at that point.

The story I'm about to tell you is of such an episode. It's from my, by far, biggest agile (brrrr...) roll-out task. To me it all ended in a big meeeh, but I know that some people there was happier when i left and I supposed that meant something.


Below when I write "I" we actually were a complete team. If I got these aha-moments earlier I could have helped us all to act differently and hence get a better output. But I didn't. It came now. No shadow should fall on my co-workers. If shadows are to fall :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some thoughts I got after talking with Woody Zuil

Yesterday I had the good fortune to have a chat with Woody Zuill over Skype. I was a really nice hour that just flew by, where we exchanged stories, ideas and had a few laughs.

Let me, as a side note, just say that I love that; just exchanging stories with people. I **always** learn new stuff and quite often stories from my own experience pop back into my memory.
This is the best part of conferences - meeting, interacting with others. That's what I miss the most, being a little sidestepped here in Indonesia. Praise the Lord for Skype and Twitter... ah well for the Internet too (although I'm not entirely sure He had any hands-on action on either of those inventions).

I just thought I summarise some of the things that I took away with me from our conversation.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Coaching exercise - building Lego

From Amazon
I've just concluded a vacation during which I had time to build a lot of Lego (tm) with my sons. That's really a lot of fun and very developing for the kids I notice. With my oldest, Albert, we have much fun following description and building the house to the left.
My other sons more like to build something that just comes up with the pieces they have in hand.

After sitting with Albert a couple of hours I started to recognise the personality the Lego building brought forth in me; this was coaching-Marcus talking.

I think this is a really good exercise and in this short post I'll show you a couple things that I noticed and that was very eye-opening for me.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

KoaJs: Making the make file test, push and all that

The last couple of days I have enjoyed the speed and easy-going-flow that Node, KoaJs and Herkou gives me. It's truly blows me away and I have been tweeting stuff like:
But... In one regard I have lied. I told Woody Zuill (friend and role model) that I could push to production with a single command. While that was true the command (git push heroku master) did just that. Push to Heroku. But I wanted it to test my code, version it, push to GitHub and then push to Heroku. You know - all the continuous delivery stuff.

I had to look into the "scary" domain of Makefiles. Untravelled territory for me. I thought it was scary but it was just a bit weird and I actually got something nice to work.

This post described what I did - and how I redeemed my statement to Woody so that deploying to production is in fact one command (about 25 seconds).

Simple = Good. Complex = Bad. But what does it mean?

I’m a programmer. But I, for some strange reason, often find myself doing management consulting on different levels. Since my basic schooling is in programming I sometimes often find myself using principles that works well for programming in management.

One such principle was something I picked up about 10 years ago and I’m still reaching for that everyday. Here’s my current desktop background, showing that principle to me everyday:


This is a so called truism that nobody says again, but I fail to reach just about all the time. I find it very useful as a guiding north star both in organizations and programming. But what does it really mean?

Monday, June 16, 2014

KoaJs - the fast route between idea and production

A couple of days ago I had a great experience in why a modular framework is a great thing, that I wanted to share in this blog post. You will follow the EXACT path of my thinking. Yes, it might scare you but... it will not take very long.

Before we start, I'm sure theres a number of times when a very modular framework, like Koa Js and NancyFx for example, might be bad too - but for the most part I think my experience is the most common one.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Delegation and my jedi mind trick

A couple of days ago I learned about the 7 Levels of Delegation in the Management 3.0 book by Jurgen Appelo.

The last level of delegation (aptly named Delegate) is defined as:

You leave the decision to them and you don’t even want
to know about details that would just clutter your brain.

Yes, that. Give someone a responsibility and then step away. Today I got the opportunity to talk with a manager that have a tendency to micromanage a lot and we came up with conversation template that I think was worthy remembering.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Move the information to the authority, and not the other way around

From’s no secret that I like the writings (and presentations) of Captain David Marquet.  If you haven’t seen this video do that instead of reading this. It change a whole lot about how I look at leadership.
One of the best tips in the book is the small imperative sentence:
Move the authority to the information!
However, often when I explain this to people and clients I often end up adding the opposite to this sentence. From that I got some interesting conversations going.
Let’s see if I can explain what I mean here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The “talk about later”-list

When I was a kid (and teenager… oh, well still today too) I messed up a lot. I forgot things or did them in a stupid order and all of a sudden I was in an emergency. For example, I forgot that I should be in a rehearsal 1 hour away and here I was in my home, 2 hours from the rehearsal room.

Quite often in those situation someone, my parents predominantly, of course enlighten me about how stupid this was and gave helpful advice on what I should have done instead in order to not ended up here.

This made me very mad a little upset, since those advice didn’t improve my situation one bit. I often “told” them (talk about re-writing history) about the futility of these tips at this point.

Aesop_pushkin01Years after, in my twenties I found support from one of the old Greek philosophers, Aesop, the guy with the fables, in this quote:

Help me first and argue with me later.

(Didn’t find a English translation for this sadly, so this is Greek to Swedish to English)

I have found use for that quote and what it teaches us later in my career. Most recently yesterday.

In this post I wanted to show you how I handle this in a more structured way.

Monday, June 02, 2014

You control the disappointment dial - use it!

Walking my oldest son, Albert, to and from school is one of the highlights of the days here in Indonesia. At least when he’s in a good mood. Today was not one of those days. He was angry because something didn’t turn out as he planned. He very often does that: makes up his mind about what we should do (often involving TV or games) and then gets very upset when it doesn’t happen the way he wanted.
I tried to talk with him about that and in doing so I had a little epiphany about me, the IT industry, estimates and uncertainty.
Oh, I should probably add that I re-watched this great presentation by Dan North two days before. It probably affected me, to maybe be wiser than I otherwise would.

Waiting is bad for you… and it’s worse than you think

I recently ran into a concrete example on waiting that showed me, again, why it’s bad. And how easy the alternative is.

At one of our facilities the cleaning has long been neglected. It was super-dirty in places and you could see that no one had clean here for months, maybe even years. A rescue operation was put into place and in just 5 days the facility was cleaned. About 15 people was engaged in the effort.

That’s really awesome because not only is the cleaning done, but the next time we clean it will not take as much time.

In this post I wanted to share some thoughts on how this is general and what we can do to avoid this situation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I missed, longed for, happy to not have from fasting from social media

Tomorrow I will end a 30 day social media fast.

I got a bit overwhelmed and depressed by some comments and discussions that I was drawn into and aired it with my buddies at Aptitud. 2 minutes later 3 of us decided to go on a fast.

I uninstalled all my social media apps and removed the shortcuts to the sites. The first thing was to make it
harder to use it. I was in real deep, and even felt a bit stressed that if I didn't read my stream the first thing in the morning.  The first couple of days it was pretty close that I got back in a couple of times. I realized that if I was waiting for a slow page (ALL pages when in Indonesia) I often switched over to Twitter to catch up.... And got stuck.

Full disclosure: I have been tweeting pictures from the @kanbanInAction account just to promote the book. And yesterday I was on facebook for my work, gathering examples of social media in the Salvation Army.

After about 5 days I forgot all about it and since then it just been a joy. I read a fictional book for the first time in several years. This has not only to do with not being on social media, but it gave some space and room.

In this post I will just list the things I have missed, not missed and the reasons for me taking it up again...