September 11, 2013 (Justin’s Table)

(Thanks to Colin Dabritz for taking notes)


Misogyny + Bigotry in tech

  • lots of incidents recently
  • maybe some of this crossover from video games?
  • lack of professionalism in general
  • Are parts of the culture perpetuating a lack of professionalism?
  • Casual culture, you feel less ‘accountable’ but you are representing a company, profession
  • profession is young, no liscensure to revoke (e.g. you can’t be disbarred for unethical behavior)
  • Youth culture contributes


How much prediction making do you do?

  • Agile, so many unknowns can’t predict, so don’t. Manage and move.
  • Sales need targets, sometimes hard deadlines.
  • lost of people forget, can adjust schedule or features
  • Mcconnel estimation (book)
  • This is an exploration, research, not mechanized process
  • Predictions are dangerous, can become constraints
  • Predictions can be important to coordinate, can cause issues, why not buffer?
  • Just make the development team as productive as possible
  • Making predictions is natural, making promises


What kind of interruptions do you allow? How do you manage them?

  • git stash – temporarily ‘stash’ work
  • Kanban – focusing on the thing  you are doing
  • Feel about – “oh great, I’m accumulating inventory in my warehouse that’s costing me money”
  • (who fights fires this week?)
  • allow? can’t choose interruptions, distractions
  • (context switching is expensive)
  • (understanding management vs maker schedule)
  • (true fires, understand the cost)
  • (have a good product manager, prioritize properly)


How do you manage your brain?

  • Problems in work and life don’t always give you a choice
  • Do what you want to be good at, e.g. if you switch to managing that’s a shift, you will lose some dev ability.
  • Learning, practicing
  • Taking breaks (pacing)
  • Managing stress
  • Learn your rhythms, 90 mis is a magic number for me, give yourself time, find others who can handle your rhythm
  • Be mindful of the things you put into your brain (e.g. sources of news, how they make you feel)
  • your environment, habbits
  • surround with smart[er] people, choose your work, environments
  • exercise, diet, socialization
  • Space – space where it’s easy to access healthy things, exercise, standing desks
  •      – Avoid stress, ability to move and adjust, eat good food
  • Competitive can be stressful, but can also be positive, pushing you.
  • Stress spectrum, can be different kinds
  • autonomy, mastery, purpose
  • too comfortable, not exploring new things
  • sharpen the saw, be attentive, prioritize yourself and your brain, get coaching


Forward thinking companies

  • Have you heard of OKCupid? Was it because of the service, or the blog posts with data?
  • How is this measured?
  • Being trusted experts. (Unbounce)
  • Who do you think of as forward thinking? Company providing fungus that acts like styrofoam
  • Cellular level mechanism, nanotechnology, nano power generation in clothing
  • SpaceX
  • Used to think of google as a forward thinking company
  • Challenging norms
  • Code schools
  • Connecting
  • trying new things
  • Try to solve a problem that doesn’t affect just the privilege of the bay area
  • Companies that measure
  • Watsi
  • Do VCs and the startup industry promote this?
  • Pharmacutical companies, make or break on FDA approval


What’s hard or challenging?

  • Simple – to make or do simple things, always harder than the compacted.
  • e.g. quitting smoking. Very simple, very challenging.
  • Changing habits
  • Software – making it simple, elegant is hard.
  • Understanding the problem
  • Quick feedback loop makes things easier, long or complex feedback loop is much harder
  • People issues are a long feedback loop
  • People are hard
  • Department has “solutions” in the name, but uninterested in the solutions, much more interested in the problems
  • The problem is you don’t understand the problem
  • Starting with the wrong question, finding the right question
  • Exploring the landscape
  • Follow up, follow through, ideals
  • Doing the RIGHT thing now, vs the fast easy thing
  • Working in teams
  • Others perspective, doing the right thing for everyone
  • Being ethical for all stakeholders
  • The unknown unknowns
  • Missing pieces, missing requirements
  • Communicating ideas, sharing vision
  • (Vulnerability, taking real personal risk)


Learning Center

  • making a space where learning happens
  • Where existing engineers can mentor, and improve their own skills
  • Book: The quick start guide to the five years of accelerated learning Willem + Diana Larsen
  • First thing you do is take care of peoples basic needs (comfortable, fed, relaxed, welcome)
  • Mix between – solid, things aren’t moving, not a good environment. gas – chaotic, moving too much. Liquid – move enough
  • Zone of proximal development
  • Whiteboards – Whiteboard paint (“winking”)
  • What makes a learning environment welcoming?
  • What motivates people to learn?
  • Parents sense of expectation was a big driving force in undergrad
  • Suddenly having to come up with intrinsic motivation was hard
  • Book: “Confessions of a buccaneer scholar”


Programers are to sysadmins as doctors are to surgeons

(missed notes here)


Vacation – do you check-in or not?

  • “what is a ‘Vacation'”? (sarcasm)
  • What types of responsibilities does your job have?
  • If you’re at a job/company
  • (lost notes)

September 11, 2013 (Dan’s Table)

When do you prefer to test?

  • TDD
  • Testing used to be an entry level position
  • Testing has become a senior level activity
  • Testing increases the understanding of the code
  • Every bug in the code will eventually be found.  You want a tester or a test to find it rather than a customer.
  • Tiny little testable steps
  • Focu work on a small unit
  • Always move forward
  • Deliver features vs Deliver Quality
  • You get what you measure.

Learning to talk while programming

  • How do you learn to communicate
  • Pair programming is experiental.  People get frustrated if it doesn’t pay off immediately.  (much like riding a bike)
  • Can you pair with somebody you don’t like?
  • “Code buddy”
  • Must self-select your code buddy
  • Conflicts can cause big trouble
  • Mature developers have habits and skills which they have learned over time
  • Stereotype of programmers: late nights/pizza
  • working alone lets you conceal your weakness
  • Egoless programming
  • when you pair, problems that confuse both people are immediately visible as serious problems
  • One participant can tune out

What makes a graph feel “live”?

  • What does “live” mean in context?
  • Drill in (nagios)
  • Google street view
  • Responsive UI vs live data
  • Travel sites which take a while to search
  • Convention in TV and movies: displays always have text which is updating (2001 screens, Terminator)
  • As things get slower they get harder to think about
  • Attention span
  • latency
  • Graphs that update
  • Weather maps
  • Interface vs data

Executable instructions

  • Instead of documentation about how to do something, how about a script which is executable and readable?
  • Need a language that is executable and robust for human to human communication
  • Chef
  • Avoid a “Wizard” – leads to no understanding of how things are done
  • Smalltalk let you have “Run” as part of editing

New iPhone

  • New UI
  • Buttons were not present but came back in in later betas of iOS7
  • Flat UI: Windows 8 phone
  • Skeumorphism
  • Change for change’s sake vs improvement

Presentation of one’s self (Facebook vs LinkedIn)

  • Different venues, different expectations
  • work/life balance
  • How does Twitter fit in?
  • Credibility/trust must be earned
  • Context
  • Not everybody has a FB acct

Resources for learning about agile software dev

  • XP pocket guide
  • Thin books aren’t intimidating
  • Find books that you like, look for “people who bought this also bought” on Amazon
  • Books leave out failures, sound like every project is successful
  • wiki
  • “less wrong” web site

What makes programming problems fun?

  • like solving a puzzle
  • Sudoku solvers can be more fun problems than sudoku puzzles
  • Fun to not work within an existing codebase
  • “That’s what I do for work”
  • Demonstrate mastery
  • setting own goals
  • refactoring?

Best invite to LC

  • Bring a great idea for people to explore
  • Friendly people, coffee
  • exercise for my brain
  • light switch (or lens) for your thought process
  • thinking about metacognition

August 14, 2013

Who is worth following, and how do you know?

– Who is saying original things?
– Curators are still valuable as navigators
– People who rephrase and clarify can be valuable too
– similar problem to cites in academia

What non-tech skills make a team work well?  How can you encourage them?

– Some people seem to “smooth out” the team
– Can you self-disclose?
– Know when to trust
– Responsiveness

Having a concrete job offer vs deciding to wait for better?

– Are you finding your next job, or are you finding the last job you will ever have?
– Define “good enough”
– Know where you want to improve
– Will this job help you achieve a goal?
– Geography?
– Hiring bonus?
– research on glassdoor, etc

Organizational Antibodies

– Sometimes people resist change as a defensive measure
– Sometimes people are upset because their cheese is being moved
– Some antibodies are appropriate
– Governance is a common antibody to resist agile

Hiring senior vs jr developers

– Fresh blood
– fresh perspective
– can help in succession planning
– Give people responsibility then live with them.  Struggles and failure are great teaching and learning opportunities
– “Junior” is not “cheap”.

AgilePDX community building

– How do we build a community?
– Why do we build a community?
– networking
– meet outsiders
– movers & shakers vs watchers
– The “in” group is it’s own worst enemy.

Balancing Creators & Elaborators

– Code that shows an idea vs code that we can depend on
– Deleting code can be a great embellishment
– Pair a creator with an Elaborator, can enrich both
– TDD can help to creators to work together

Architecture and Culture

– Conway’s Law
– Can you use architecture to drive cultural change
– sometimes you need to hire a contractor who is expert in where you want to be

Working with allies outside of IT (HR, Facilities, etc)

– Go to them early, establish communication
– People don’t know everything that others do, don’t know how their needs impact other departments
(Facilities will have time & budgets, HR doesn’t realize how long it takes to do pert reviews, etc)
– See what other’s objectives are, see you your needs can help them achieve their objectives

How many reverts is too many?

– Be bold
– Knowledge emerges
– What moves you forward?
– What gets in your way?
– Tolerance of mistakes
– Maybe too many things are in flight
– responsiveness
– service recovery vs service consistency

July 3rd, 2013

Thanks again for Dan for writing up notes.

  1. Naming is hard (how to)
    • “2 hard problems in CSc: naming & cache invalidation”
    • very important
    • names that are wrong are like an itch you can’t scratch
    • naming conventions
    • language conventions
    • help you things if names are good
    • happy collisions
    • project glossaries
  2. organizing iterations when team has multiple responsibilities
    • operations
    • support
    • dev
    • multiple projects
    • individual may not have anough info to prioritize
    • protocols to deal with unexpected incidents (prod)
    • different colors on the task board
    • fudge factor in estimating
    • being able to deal with this is a sign of maturity
  3. Ageism
    • larger companies tend to have a bigger spread
    • some people devalue older coders who don’t know the lates/greatest
    • maybe pair younger coders with older experienced ones
    • “don’t type as much, but get stuff done”
    • some older people can be set in their ways
    • broader toolkit
    • younger consultants, don’t say no for themselves
    • “how important is that work?”
    • sometimes it’s good to step back
    • is capacity for work changing with age?
  4. Where innovation happens?
    • tech, edu
    • startups, small companies, garages
    • education is socially very conservative
    • lots of regulation around schools
    • charter schools – not very different from a conventional school
    • tweaking the classic formula
    • technology in schools isn’t disruptive by itself
    • khan academy
    • still doing the same basic formula: tests, homework, course materials
    • locus of control is far away from the classroom, has different goals
  5. Retrospectives
    • what makes a retrospective good?
    • post-mortem is different, after a large project ends
    • “teachrospective”
    • recognition, prime decision making
    • why do things go wrong?
    • ask the right questions
    • retrospective is a steering activity
    • followup on past issues
    • not just a bitch session
  6. Dealing with a dominant team member
    • might be very good
    • might just be pushy
    • needs to be a team solution
    • peer pressure
    • they may think that they are doing what is best for the team
    • need to have that “a ha” moment when they realize that they are hurting the team
    • PM with good facilitation skills can help
    • behavior profiles, analagous to Meyers-Briggs
    • strengths-finder
  7. Dealing with a weak team member
    • not getting work done, passive
    • what motivates them?
    • they do have strengths, find them!
    • how does the team approach it?
    • give them a mentor
    • career level may not be the same as their skill level
    • autonomy, mastery, purpose
    • let them pick first
  8. Group size
    • past 12 or so you can’t make a decision
    • 5-6 can get a lot done, larger needs more coordination
    • how fungible are the tasks
    • “moving a house” works well with big groups
    • making a decision
    • spread ownership
    • optimum team sizes from the group?
    • 5 ish for software
    • larger teams work well if they know each other well and collaborate well
  9. Burnout
    • it can grow
    • can’t sustain work at a high level
    • getting tired a few times a year can be good. More than that can wear you out.
    • Not enough “no”
    • beating your head against the wall
    • get fresh ideas, read more
    • “the progress principle” book
    • “frustration is the opposite of progress”

June 19th, 2013


Special Thanks to Dan for creating these notes.

– Meetings need to have a purpose/agenda
– some cultures punish tardiness, could be shaming, could be financial
– Some cultures treat being overbooked as a sign of status

Use of automation/macros
– machine setup
– machine activities (shutdown at a certain time, etc)
– tech support (standard text responses)
– how much do you customize your environment?

What is Agile?
Definition proposed was about helping teams work faster, we disagreed with that but couldn’t stabilize on what it is

Human Systems Dynamics
– Method of managing interaction between people
– know what you know, what you can potentially know, what you can’t know
– US Navy submarine control room anecdote: Discussions happen in public, everybody participates, Captain makes a decision
– All information is visible to everybody in the discussion
– No holding back
– Helps bring new people up to speed
– Helps spread institutional knowledge

– Is it useful? Can be if the people dogfooding the product are the ones who build it
– Can show confidence in your product

Finding Tech talent in PDX
– Not enough talent
– Paying relocation costs to bring in talent can be a sticking point
– People outside of the PDX area don’t necessarily know what the job market is like in PDX
– People churning around locally costs everybody time and money

June 5th, 2013

I’d like to extend a giant “thank you” to Colin for writing up notes this time!
Topics that Made the cut:
  1. Elitism
    • Hiring great people, focuses on ‘top performers’ creates a community of elitism
    • Creates a “Don’t embarrass us” culture
    • Seems unhealthy
    • Concerns
      • Long term not a good strategy
      • Not a healthy culture
    • if you have a culture of learning in addition to having really bright people
    • what keeps people aligned? pulling in the same direction? vs ego competition
    • keeping the focus on having to produce something. It’s not how smart you are, it’s what you produce
  2. Building good communication between dev (product) people and sales people
    • Challenges we face between biz dev and product people
    • In an agency you are courting many clients. Sales team had different goals and focuses and desired outcomes. because of that sales and biz dev had to address different clients based on those wants. if they don’t communicate the promises made are much larger than the product people can produce
    • its easy to make promises for other people
    • product company vs agency
      • product management main problem is how to communicate effectively with sales
    • Has to come from a strong vision, pushing hard on exec team to hone vision and buy-in, if not, every request will pull you in a different direction
    • Taking sales managers out to lunch all the time
    • We’re all people! let them know you’re a person too.
    • Engage early and often. Constant communication (not ‘cliche’ communicating)
    • Sometimes issues with sales incentives. The incentives don’t align with the vision, product. Sales compensation is sometimes kept way too secret.
  3. Play
    • Structured play – e.g. lean coffee feels like play
    • Live in a culture to teach them “play time, and that’s not serious time” – Never stop playing!
    • Play is engaging
    • Language does matter, (corporate culture) meetings and rules, here is a process – “I hate the word process”
    • Time spent playing with kids is amazing for me too, ideas, flow
    • Certain amount of play that you encourage. Culture of environment, casual environment, room to play
    • Play is learning
    • Anyone been in an environment where play is explicitly part of the culture
      • Youtube example, playground in mid building (slide etc), Google office similar (slide)
      • One of the things we did, shuffleboard table, just decided to do a tournament. When I participated it was easy, relaxing, didn’t think about relationship building, it just happened
    • Work play into structure of what you do, but also just take a break. Be careful, don’t make this an obligation, a ‘play program’ doesn’t work. It’s not play if you are forced.
    • I really like intertwining the two, happier when they flow together. The work is play, the play is work.
    • Really important method of non formal communication. Finding where people are, supporting what they do, and communicating.’breaking break’ I tried playing cards and pingpong, it was the best way to discuss challenges, connecting with people
    • Play in a corporate culture is important, focused group activities, but also individual play, creating a culture that makes it ok to take an hour break to be more productive, or coming in late etc.
  4. “My team overcommits!”
    • My dept is on a new program, trying to learn scrum. I’m a team member, watching every iteration committing to about 150% too much, repeated every iteration. Other teams working overtime to ‘fix it’. Why aren’t we communicating clearly about what we can do?
    • As a PM I would rather have you under commit, and hit that so I know what you can do.
    • For us we went through the same thing, most important thing was driving home commitment isn’t “lets try to do a whole bunch” it’s about committing to what you can do. It’s ok to building extra QA, or unknowns, add buffer.
    • I started at a new company about 8 months ago. Trying to get people to commit to less. Trying to let go a bit. If you have the same velocity for a while maybe you aren’t pushing yourself enough.
    • Estimating is an important part of the process, comes with failure early on. You use the history to figure out what you can do. Actually rewarding committing correctly.
    • Business being able to plan for sure.
    • A place I worked at in the past. Struggled with this, velocity, key meeting “We don’t care that you do a lot, we care that you do what you say will do.” team eval on making commitments. After a few months it became a cultural team.
    • The way I was taught was to learn to estimate better. Track metrics.
    • Story points are set by the product owner. (Key scrum violation). Product owner likes to set stretch goals, gets in the way.
  5. Safe space
    • What makes a space safe? how do you do that?
    • All I look at is people. Other people care about space explicitly.
    • Is it a place where people can voice concerns? e.g. gender balance in tech. Lots of interesting men I could invite, I just didn’t.
    • If this is the culture you want, go after it. Commit.
    • Safe space, on the onus of the leadership to establish communication. How transparent can you get?
    • If you don’t feel like the environment has the tools to make meaningful change. How far can I go as a leader if I can’t even voice my opinion? How democratic can we get?
    • Both interpersonal or being able to raise your hand.
    • How do leaders respond to things they don’t like?
      • At sprint reviews, CTO gets really upset when things weren’t done, pushing on metrics, really focused people on finding a way to say they were done when they weren’t actually done, affected clarity.
      • Are you encouraging people to say it’s ok when it isn’t.
    • A culture to fail quickly. Failure is ok. You get what you measure.
    • Never seen a place where “all” truths are ok. But maybe “enough” truths are ok.
  6. Shared calendaring
    • How do people deal with? Family, across devices?
    • Google calendar, when my wife is on the computer and using google calendar it was great. Commitments, babysitting, etc. Calendar putting paper on the fridge.
    • Big issue – physical location, vs ‘one true representation’
    • Issues with syncing, work calendar vs personal
    • Getting everyone to agree on how this works.
    • Equality of access, everyone needs similar tools (laptop, smartphones..)
  7. Onboarding new group members
    • New members aren’t productive, they don’t understand the process, they are afraid.
    • Seems like on boarding starts with institutional knowledge.
    • new hire checklist, happens on first day. go to this wiki page, read it
    • In lean startup e.g. culture of teaching people that’s it’s ok to fail early. e.g. first day you are coding something. If it’s bad enough where you can break it, that’s on us, we need a better process.
      • Your first day you do something productive, e.g. check in production code. (usually small, e.g. fix a typo. Scary, exciting)
    • You are hired for a year no matter what you do! (they don’t do that any more, Toyota)
    • Gave you the keys to work with the whole system on the first day. (e.g. could ruin everything)
    • Non software onboardings:
      • coffee shop in bend. Onboarding is 2 week training. Tasting, making, art, etc. Indoctrination.
      • New seasons article, read told for first two weeks, wander around the store and help out. After that they go through disorientation. “explain how this works” teach them how they were wrong. VP level, doing every job to appreciate.
      • Manager at perl REI – does every job in the store frequently.
    • Curious about – What is the real problem? Is it too long to integrate?  – People are afraid when they start, they don’t know, they are afraid to do something wrong, look foolish
    • Connect with culture, BoK (knowledge base)
    • Different schools, school context, different ways of bringing people in. QA, buddies.
    • Buddy system is good, but being buddy has to be important (not just a distraction), software: Pair programming in an XP shop, important. First job is to remind buddy to give back when they are the buddy.
  8. Competition vs Cooperation (and excellence)
    • What does management incentivize? rewarding teams encourages cooperation.
    • Friendly competition – different than ‘have to make the other person lose’
    • Layoffs – hugely competitive
    • beyond cooperation – collaboration – one goal everyone is moving toward
    • Incentives in place drive how people operate
    • Edward Debono – Surpetition (book)
    • Alfie Kohn – In Control (book – education context)
    • “software is a team sport” but my team is competing, the company is competing
    • food cart example, ‘pods’ draw more customers
    • bias at this table? seeking balance, competition is the default

May 22, 2013 (Scott’s table)

What’s the best way to immerse dev teams in customer experience

      – Common difficulty
      – Watch usability testing
      – Voice of the Customer Project at Yahoo with VCs
      – Answer support calls
How to handle content localization when it takes longer than dev cycles
      – Paid crowdsourcing: Mechanical Turk, Task Rabbit
      – Placeholder content
      – Include content readiness in release discussions
      – Cascade translation releases
      – Use metrics to decide highest priority translations
Servant Leadership/Becoming a manager
      – Find ways to learn with the family
      – 2 1/2 years to get good at it
      – Mentorship opportunities
      – Goal oriented learning
      – Empathy, trust and monitor output
Is Agile advocacy more effective top down or bottom up?
      – Seems easier top down
      – Without team buy in, doomed to fail
      – Cultural factors crucial
      – Both are necessary for success
Incorporating testing earlier in dev cycle
      – Who owns the problem, QA or Dev?
      – Behavioral Driven Development
Effective learning in your personal time
      – Figure out what type of learner you are
      – Achieving goals leads to momentum
      – Integration with family rhythms
Reassuring management when velocity drops
      – Highlight other metrics
      – Anticipate velocity drops and broadcast them
      – Show impact of decisions on velocity
Wrap up: More equal group split, more topics, 6 minute initial discussion period

May 22, 2013 (Dan’s Table)

Preserving culture during company growth

– You can’t preserve culture. It is made every day.
– If you want a certain culture, do those things.
– Choose people when hiring
– Office can set the tone
– Management can set priorities but they need to do them.
– Do you want the same culture after growth? Cultures don’t necessarily scale. Culture of 30 doesn’t work with 80.
– New people will change the culture. You can’t avoid it; you can try to steer it.
– Politics

Help desk knowledge base / beta software
– Multiple products
– new refs on different schedules
– how to support beta customers
– beta customers may not know that they are beta customers. (more of an A/B sort of testing)
– who gets the beta?
– stop doing beta. Deliver faster, do fewer changes in each release.
– Dogfood

Managing customer-visible help pages
– Standard pages vs custom pages written by a rep
– Can customer tell what they are looking at?
– How would you find errors?
– Variation by itself isn’t a problem; incorrectness is.
– customer-facing sites may become stale
– CSRs need to be accountable for accuracy
– Do pages get audited?
– What about when CSRs move on>

Bringing standup back to focus
– Gamify it
– Time people
– encourage brevity: measure it.
– try it for a week and people will start to recalibrate to what a short statement sounds like
– What is the point of the standup? (varies by team)
– Limit who is in the meeting. Only pigs get to talk; chickens get to watch. (In consulting, being a pig or a chicken depends on if you are billable to that project)
– Stay on target
– If what you want to say doesn’t add value, don’t say it.
– Learning questions: Instead of talking about what you did, talk about what you learned.
– Be aggressive about the rathole call: if the discussion is wandering, call people on it.
– For special cases: you can talk as long as you hold the electric ball:
– Don’t have the standup in a comfortable place where people relax. Stand up; make people want to finish and get back to work.
– Save the staff meeting stuff for a staff meeting

How to companies manage customer experience across different channels (blog, ads, help desk, youtube videos, etc)
– Who owns each channel?
– Does old content get pruned?
– Analyze what works
– Who originates content? (NR has engineers write blog postings about new features)
– Solutions can get out of date

Presenting to developers
– Know your audience
– Know your material
– Know your message
– Right amount of emotion in your talk. Engineers can smell a sales pitch and will tune you out
– More interactive/less interactive
– Tell a story. Don’t just recite facts.
– Talk about the “why”
– Get devs talking to customers, out of their comfort zone
– Presentation Zen/Tufte
– Interactivity
– are you trying to influence behavior or just convey information?

Lean Roadmaps
– Once you get past a few months out it gets fuzzy
– Quarterly roadmaps
– features vs maintenance
– Release often and change direction as needed
– All about communication
– still need a vision, even though the specifics may be fuzzy
– 3 months is a long time in technology
– Always question priorities. Are we doing the most important thing?

May 8th, 2013 (Scott’s Table)

photo (1)

1. How do you describe Agile?

– Fail fast
– Start with stories- humans like stories
– Lean – get results in front of people as fast as possible
– Customer driven
—who are the customers in your context?
– Lightweight
– Try Lean Coffee
– An interesting problem, and the generalization makes a lot of sense
– Do civil engineers do a lot of projects that are information based or are adaptable?
– Buildings iterate less well, where is the iteration?
– Examples: A map, a budget
– Iterate: the plan WILL change
– As a ___ I want___so that ___
-structure for stories includes protagonist and goal
– Provide value

2. McDonald’s Theory/Social Hacks

– The McDonalds hack see
– Useful if discussion is deadlocked, or team needs to get unstuck
– Propose something bad then you can get a response, get people to commit
– Posting bad information (to draw out good information)
– Devious trait
– Name Tags with trivia to jumpstart conversations/team building idea
– Adjusting expectations
– Lean coffee
—the structure of lean coffee is a form of social hack
– Personality trait? Learned skill?
– “I’m just a dumb XYZ but…”
– Parenting
—-lots of tricks parents learn
– Names and memory tricks
– Icebreakers, conversation starters (a lot of facilitation/teaching tricks are social hacks)
– Breaking an impasse
– Listening

3. How do you get your creative flow going?

– Pomodora technique
– Should I be doing something? Yes or No? No? Don’t lie, just do it.
– Find your sweet spot (early morning, quiet times)
– Have to feel safe to create
– Self-shaming works to get going
– the “Cone of Silence” (a traffic cone outside the door means don’t interrupt)
– just getting started is the hardest part, momentum matters a lot
– other people – interacting with others, socializing and discussing to get creative flow going
– making opportunity (you have to create your own opportunities for creative work, this is the hard part!)
– get enough sleep (manage your needs and stress)
– long term investment in creative collaborative space

4. How do you work with other groups to determine backlog priority?

– User requirements gathering
– In Scrum, needs to be one person
– Use Lean to get stories up to customer

5. Writing stories for multiple audiences

– Have customer draw out what they want
– EPIC- can be broken into smaller stories
– Scott uses Pivotal Tracker to track
– stories change when the user is presented with a prototype (e.g. screen mockups)
– manage expectations
– the cost of coding is high (iterate the ideas first)
– customers tend to be unengaged at the ‘coding’ phase
story -> picture -> functionality

6. Getting kids interested in STEM
– Coder dojo
– Lego robotics
– Mind storms- Lego Robotics “building a robot”
– Make it fun and relevant
– Chemistry teacher makes it a little dangerous (teens like that)
– dangerous experiments (encourage their inner pyromaniac)
– Must be learner driven (if they don’t control their own engagement they won’t be interested)
– “We lack a ‘moonshot'”
—disagree, our moonshots aren’t as well known, and are less ‘personal’ than e.g. an astronaut
– unstructured?
– exciting
– visibility of the job?

7. What makes a good LeanCoffee topic?
– Relevant to participants
– Something someone is curious about
– How do I (??) so that I can (???)
– collecting topics (during the week note when you have good lean coffee topic thoughts)
– Ice Breakers
– Engagement
– Something people have a stake in
– “How do you…” (asking good journalism questions) Perhaps these tips apply:
– Good questions lead to good stories
– catharsis (but be careful of too much dumping)
– some good questions are based on relationships (asking for help with a problem, sharing thoughts, story telling)
– genuine (artificial topics don’t do well, contribute based on your own true interest in discussion)
– multiple P.O.V.s
– Sharing
– diversity
– a wide variety of styles, focuses, topic range,
– specific question vs broad prompt,
– opinion with commentary vs asking for help.

8. Best LinkedIn groups for Agile resources?

– LinkedIn is a little business-y (not that agile)

– Alicia is moderating this group: Agile Project Management (non-software)
– She is finding this question popping up across LinkedIn groups- Agile Alliance, Agile Project Management; will try to direct to Agile Project Management (non-software).
– Agile open NW
– Agile is a ‘toolkit’
– Variety
– “Scrumbut” (i.e. “we do Scrum, but….”)
– Lean Coffee!


May 8, 2013 (Justin’s table)


Topics that made the cut:

  1. Clipboard, Habit Maker, & Retro follow-through
    • Shared tools for helping changes from retrospectives stick
      1. A very large picture is put on the wall. Then covered with post-its that represent behavior changes to make (e.g., pair on a task). As team members complete the behavior change tasks, they remove the post-its. The first team member to guess what the image underneath is gets a prize.
      2. Behavior changes are put on a clipboard. A team member caries the clipboard and visits team members reminding them of the change. This is not a governance activity, but a reminder.
    • Justin points out that a group has to get to planning actions before they can follow through on them. Considered using a technique from above as “bait” to get a team to form actionable changes from a retrospective.
  2. Accelerated Learning
    • Framework for learning from Willem Larsen. Featured in the book-in-progress Name This Book.
    • 5 Items: Alive, Fluency, Signal, Focus & Setting.
    • If you take only one thing from the model, create learning environments that recognize people’s humanity.
    • Noted that the “environment” and setting for retrospectives can greatly affect their effectiveness.
  3. Water-SCRUM-fall, is it worth the pain?
    • When a program is structured very large and slow, with a staged release plan (e.g. in the first year, we’ll build the db…) but is to be run “agile” this causes pain for teams. What do to?
    • Team members tend to see activities such as iteration planning, backlog management, retrospectives, demos, etc. as “stupid” and “a waste of time”.
    • If you don’t have a purpose, it’s hard to know if you’re making
      progress toward a goal. Team may need to set its own sub-goals, if the business isn’t providing them.
    • Need to get the big program focussed on results. Outcomes, not output.
    • May come from fear of actually releasing. Business may not want the
      changes that would come from producing a result.
  4. Agile/Kanban as Organiz. Design
  5. Tricks for breaking out of ruts
    • I’m in a rut. How do you break out of ruts?
    • The Plateau Effect may help.
    • What about the 5 rules of Accelerated Learning?
    • Try getting others to see the same problem you see. Then you are not alone in working on the problem and not alone in the rut.
    • Ruts represent a conflict of desires. Boredom comes from prevention from doing what you want to do.
  6. How do you use Lean for your extra-work creative projects?
    • Talked a lot about Personal Kanban
      • Books: Personal Kanban, Factory of One, David Starr has written a book about it, featured in WSJ.
      • Tools: LeanKit, trello
      • Beware the tyranny of the list. Kanban does not remove this.
      • Differentiate between “holding” and “blocked” items.
      • Can try to sort tasks by size. Then when presenting with time to take on a task, grab one that fits the available time.
      • How about Family Kanban?
    • Briefly touched on family retrospectives.
  7. Merging two overlapping products and technology stacks
    • Merging (through acquisition) two products that overlap in both audience and functionality.
    • Anti-recommendation: bigwigs decide how people will work, ignoring realities. Instead, try to bring people doing the work together early and give them a chance to solve the problem from the engineering perspective. Create value teams.
    • What does success look like? What will failure look like?
    • Is there common understanding of the overlap? Figure out how to make the people excited about doing the work – technical challenges? how will it build their careers?
    • Recognize what’s been learned so far.
    • Focus on merging people over merging technology
    • What do the people stand to gain?