So you’re a Scrum Master, business owner, manager or any other kind of a leader – and you’d like your team to be able to conquer the world. Or just deliver products and services your clients will love. Welcome to the first of series of articles designed to make your journey easier. Today, we’ll tackle the robotic aspects of your team.

Are you into some team sports – football, basketball, volleyball, anything like that? Think of the best team you know, one that raises the bar beyond reach of all others. If you’re not into this kind of entertainment, simply ask around – then choose the most popular answer. That is, unless you surround yourself with local sports club hooligans – but then you wouldn’t be reading this article.

Got the team? Great. Now, spend few minutes or so, on watching them playing – YouTube or Vimeo should do just fine. Make notes about how they play.

Even if you’re not familiar with the particular sport, you should notice one thing. For perfect team, things just happen. Somehow, right players show up at right places to perform right actions. You cannot see any deliberate planning or synchronization. Both of which are often simply impossible, due to extreme dynamics of the situation. It’s almost like magic.

Then it’s everything but magic.

That’s the imprinted, repeated reaction to a specific cue. If teammate on position A does B, you do C. Specific situations are analysed, broken down, and rehearsed during training. Thousands of times. Then, the moment the trigger is activated, you start doing your part. And that’s without even thinking about it or realizing that!

It’s the same mechanism that decides the sequence of actions you perform every morning. One that allows you to commute mindlessly, the same way, every single day. One that decides how exactly you wash your teeth.

Automated response to imprinted scenario is what we call habit.

Competent sport coaches teach their teams the rules. Good ones teach tips and tricks. Great ones design and foster habits.

As each of us has thousands of them, from tiny ones to those defining our personality, so do teams and organizations. Generally, every concept composed of creatures of habit, has habits on its own.

Now, for a few weeks, observe the habits of your team. Spot triggers and reactions. When e-mail arrives in team mailbox, they do A. When new bug arrives on their task board, they do B. When they come to work, they do C (which clearly stands for Coffee, at least in IT).

Some of these habits are great. Some are close to meaningless. Some are devastating.

Spot them, share with the team, ask them to look around themselves!

Which puts you one step closer to growing the team to conquer the world.

As for next step – modifying habits – I’ll cover that next week. Stay tuned!

In a manic world of fitness, there’s a phenomenon called “active couch potato”. It describes a person eagerly engaging in various physical activities, from gym to marathon running – yet, stuck out of shape. As it turns out, for many, even regular trainings are not enough to offset the utterly sedentary lifestyle. Sitting in the car, welded to the desk at work, chilling by the television – running your 5k every Saturday morning won’t make up for it.

I should know well. For quite a few years I was a textbook example. That somewhat overweight guy crossing the half-marathon finish line in the photo above? That would be me, a bit over half a year ago.

And as, with quite a lot of effort and relentless support of few of my best friends, I moved past this limbo, I realized how many teams and organizations behave the same way. They’re capable of heroic achievements every few months (say, just prior to some major product release), then get intoxicated by their epic success, learn nothing, and decay into the world of widespread mediocrity. Several cycles more, they’re surprised by their lack of form, however it’s defined in their business context.

So, is your team an active couch potato or fit and healthy?

There’s a long-awaited point in history of each development team. Weeks and months of their hard work, conveniently split into sprints, are finally about to conclude in the Holy Grail of boards, managers, and shareholders – the release. This is when all the changes and adaptations couple with technical excellence and the finished product – or just, hopefully, valuable part of it – is given into willing hands of end-users. I believe there are countless parallel universes in which things just work fine. Users are happy, sales skyrocket, and team seamlessly switches to next product. Thing is though, we live on planet Earth, which leads to a slightly different outcome.

Namely, all hell breaks loose. Read more

If you ask people at any software development conference about the methodology they work in, you’re likely to notice that majority will just say “Agile”. Interestingly, they will claim so without taking a millisecond to think about it. On one hand, it’s kind of obvious. Who wouldn’t work using the best approach possible? On the other though, it does seem like a reflex. When asked about methodology, tell them about Agile.

It’s a little surprise that, when asked what they mean by that, each single person will give you a different answer! Read more

When you’re in a service industry, the usual client path starts the same, regardless of your particular branch of business. You approach them, or they reach out for you. Then, they send what they want. Then you employ your craftsmanship, providing them with adequate value for money. In most of the world, that is – sorry, North Korea and Cuba! And while you do it, things suddenly change. When you’re a car mechanic, it turns out that the actual fault is not the gearbox linkage, it’s the clutch worn out by the idiot owner. So, you contact the client and change the clutch. Then you make an order for a new clutch at a ridiculous discount. When you’re in interior design, it turns out that some, meticulously selected, shade of paint makes the man of the house look stupid every sunny evening. So, the client contacts you and you pick a new paint. One that makes him look like an orange, which is a noticeable upgrade to his dubious appeal. When you’re a hairdresser, it turns out your hipster customer looks like a Thailand-made lumberjack wannabe with his beard trimmed at 25 millimetres. So, you discuss the matter with him and turn him into a clean shaved man. A skinny, useless, and weak one – but a man. It seems ridiculously easy and it is. That’s how service business works all around the globe.

Not in software development industry, though. Read more

Do you know what luck is? It’s the intersection of opportunity and preparation. I love to conceptualise, design, and deliver a proper public speech. Regardless of whether it’s presentation of a new idea, sharing experiences or making sales – when given the chance, I can work on it overnight without ever getting tired. Each of these events enables me to change something and, possibly, inspire others to follow. So that’s opportunity. How about the second ingredient? Preparing for a presentation is a huge deal, with several iterations of rehearsals and updates. But there are things you should really take into consideration before you even start anything. Read more

It is relatively easy to sell a product. You may make a profit or not, depending on variety of factors, but the approach is pretty straightforward. All it takes is to find a pain, figure out a way to make it go away and then see whether you were right in both of these. Market will mercilessly validate all the factors you accounted for, how you did it, and what you missed. It was the same for IT world, with only minor changes being the projects, resulting in approach that could get the catchy name of “product development as a service”.

Then, the Agile came – and things started to change. Read more

I am close to openly disdain the idea of sending people to few-day long courses and expecting them to perform some complicated duties. Hell, even the learning process is often corrupted to the bone. Think of trainers who do nothing but training, full-time, with hardly any exposure to actual business. Think of certificates achieved upon completion of simple web-based tests. Think of generic courses, in no way adjusted to what people actually need. And all these flaws produce hundreds and thousands of scrum masters, project managers, product owners, and all other roles possible.

Then, these people get back to work and are expected to ‘perform’. Because they’re ‘qualified’. God Almighty… Read more