The Scrum approach to agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. Scrum and other agile methods were inspired by its shortcomings. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, functioning software, team self management, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities.


Transformation Strategies – Seth vs. Randy

Posted by ewok_bbq under Scrum Transitions, Uncategorized

It’s New Years Eve and personal and professional transformation seem to be top of mind for most everyone around this time a la (a) goal setting exercises and (b) the obligatory New Years resolutions.

I wanted to offer two different takes on transformation, one is a bottom up and one is top down.  In the bottom up interview the #1 blogger in the world talks about how to make incremental changes through experimentation when you don’t have the authority to change the entire system.  In the top-down interview we hear from a professional CIO how to transform a failing business to be more data driven and innovative.

The first take on transformation is from Seth Godin, the #1 blogger in the world. Here’s Seth Godin’s interview on transformation.  Have a watch. Do you agree or is this characterization oversimplified?



Seth Godin: How do you change the system when you don’t have the power?

Next – have a watrandy_mottch of Uber-CIO Randy Mott. Randy Mott was the CIO of Wal-Mart, Dell as well as HP and is now CIO of GM). In this interview with Information Week where he talks through his transformation playbook:
*Data Driven Decisions
*The Speed Merchant – bringing cycle times down
*Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
*How to move money around to be more around innovation and less around keeping the lights on

He will be in-housing over 8,000 IT jobs to innovation centers to hot tech markets like Austin, Texas or Silicon Valley.

Do you agree with Randy or Seth? What are your guiding goals in 2013? Looking forward to reading your comments.



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Discretionary Energy and Paul O’Neill

Posted by ewok_bbq under Agile and Scrum

A few days ago I paul_o_picwatched a CNN special produced by Fareed Zakaria Editor-at-Large of TIME Magazine which featured an interview with the 72nd US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.  For those who missed the program I wanted to offer a summary of the piece as well as some follow on analysis.  As usual, I encourage all of the readers to submit comments in the comments section below.


Before becoming the 72nd US Treasury Secretary Mr. O’Neill was the CEO of Alcoa.  When he came into the organization, by all accounts Alcoa was lagging behind in terms of both employee morale and revenues and not delighting users.  Instead of focusing on increasing revenues, Mr. O’Neill zeroed in on safety.   At first glance it seemed like a very curious choice and one that did get immediate negative feedback from his management team and some of the long time tenured employees at Alcoa.


So why would a new CEO spend most of his time on an initiative focused on safety?  Really, how would that lead to profit and revenue growth?  The answer is the concept of Discretionary Energy.


Discretionary energy is the amount of attention you are getting from your employees and it speaks to their willingness to be “checked-in” vs. their willingness to be “checked-out” during work hours.  What Mr. O’Neill recognized was that there was a correlation between his employees’ safety violations decreasing and discretionary energy increasing. Amazingly, even with his internal detractors, his theory played out.  What he saw was a huge decrease in safety violations and a huge increase in discretionary energy.


Once the employee base discretionary energy was at a heightened level, Mr. O’Neill could begin leveraging his successful experiment by rolling out additional top-down initiatives that would spur additional activities / yielding results that he wanted.  With employees already going the extra mile and sending additional energy around safety it wouldn’t be a stretch to ask them to do the same around other tasks.


When you go back to work after the first of the year, ask yourself –how much discretionary energy are you spending at work? How much is being asked of you (are you allowing yourself to be checked out)?  And if you are a manager ask yourself, what you can ask your team to focus on that would heighten their discretionary energy levels.



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Do People Matter?

Posted by ewok_bbq under Agile and Scrum, Agile Manifesto, Agile Principles

301770_555175034510479_1019421605_nHopefully the title of this blog post got your attention.  Culture seems to be at the core of what is important these days.  Many authors like Dan Pink, Steve Denning and Jurgen Appelo are making strong cases for the import of recruiting and retention programs as a means of building ground-up innovative companies.  Many of the arguments from these thought leaders have been built on shoulders of the top management thinkers of yesteryear.  Folks like Tom DeMarco who claimed that workers were different than say machines because of humans’ non-fungible characteristics.  If you haven’t read Slack yet, please do go out and buy it.  It’s well worth the money and time and would make a perfect stocking stuffer.

When you do recruiting for your team, what are the criteria’s you choose your candidates by? How highly ranked is culture versus say competence? See what Brad Feld of WSJ has to say here.  Do you agree?

While I was the President and Co-Founder of Danube, I did a lot of the recruiting.  But, really, I only looked at three things.  Here they are in order of priority:

  • Culture Fit.  Our office in Portland was tough.  There were a lot of very strong women working in a collaborative sales environment.  This was very intimidating to many of the salesmen I interviewed who were used to individual quotas and goals [incentive structures are a topic for another blog post I am sure].
  • Type-A personality or a Willingness to make decisions.  Was the person a slacker or a go getter? Really – I have nothing against slackers but I can’t work with them in the business world.  I am simply not interested.   Moreover, I hate it when employees don’t feel empowered to make decisions – big or small.  As I always told employees, I may be temporarily angry with you for a decision you’ve made that I didn’t agree with, but I’ll terminate your employment contract for not making a decision when a decision was called for. I can’t be everywhere always – so the groups I manage need to think for themselves given the nature of the information in front of them and act.
  • Intellectually curious.     I want people who have a thirst and desire to learn new things every moment of every day.  If you’re not having rigorous debates and learning through exploration –you wouldn’t have been a fit at Danube.

You will see that I simply didn’t evaluate based on keyword experiences.  Sure – it matters, but ultimately you can learn just about anything (Salesforce, QuickBooks, Ruby, Scrum, etc).  So – to me, culture is way more important than competence.  Do you agree or do you think that culture isn’t material when building a business? I would love to hear from the readership in the comments section below.




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