Making Dreams Come True

Photo by Allison Pollard

Photo by Allison Pollard

Montreal. I knew I’d have only one day to visit this year as I continued my journey to Cornwall for Agile Coach Camp Canada. After researching things to do and see, I moved on to looking for places to eat. And came across a description of a patisserie that sounded amazing. Intrigued, I looked at their website and fell in love when I read their history page:

MAISON CHRISTIAN FAURE FIRMLY BELIEVES IN THIS QUOTE FROM ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY:
MAKE LIFE A DREAM, AND THIS DREAM, A REALITY.

My intention for 2018 is to dream bigger, so I knew immediately that I had to check this place out in person.

I walked the streets of Old Montreal and found the patisserie. It was almost closing time. I was the only customer. Six macarons to go. I walked outside, sat down near the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, admired the view of the St. Lawrence River, and took a bite of the praline macaron. It was incredible. The only thing in that moment was me enjoying a macaron in the lovely June weather. It was so good that I wanted to share the experience with someone, and I came very close to ordering macarons online and having them shipped to a friend in Texas.

I put down my phone and took another bite of macaron. The texture was perfection in the calm breeze. I smiled. I snapped a photo and tried to text it to a friend before heading off towards my hotel. A patisserie and a quote from Saint-Exupery – what a match!

Any coworkers reading this are probably laughing now because they are well-aware that I am a gift giver. Of course I would be tempted to ship desserts to Texas from Canada because I enjoyed a bite of one! Many a sweet treat has arrived in our office (and a few in our other offices), courtesy of me. It’s my way of prompting mini-celebrations to happen. I think of it as one of my superpowers: the ability to have an amazing thing delivered that sparks happiness throughout a team. A superpower that people really love.

There’s a great ice cream place in Plano—Henry’s Ice Cream—and a coworker mentioned that he thought it would be fun to have them cater an event in our office. He’d shared this idea in the past with others but nothing ever happened. When I heard it, I shared the wisdom of my superpower. And a nudge to do it. He made it come true and surprised the office with the ice cream party he’d been imagining for so long. Another person with the superpower to deliver amazing things that spark happiness!

Imagine if you set a goal just for one day to make life a dream for your team or organization. Envision the bliss across everyone’s faces. See their joy in knowing someone thought of them and their delight as all other concerns cease. Feel the smiles radiating outward as they savor the moment.

You can have that effect on people.

An unexpected kindness. A token of appreciation. An experience to be enjoyed.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

The Key to Increasing Productivity

Photo by JD Hancock

Photo by JD Hancock

To increase productivity at your organization, look at the social connectedness of your people.  Are you hearing from each person or only the "superstars?"  How well are people collaborating and showing empathy?  Asking for help is core to success, and people knowing each other drives helpfulness:  

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Achieving great team culture and communication in a distributed team

Guest post by my friend and coworker Jane Prusakova; read more on her blog at http://softwareandotherthings.blogspot.com

Photo by Jane Prusakova

Photo by Jane Prusakova

A distributed team faces many challenges that cannot be solved organically through face-to-face conversation amongst its members.  However, it is possible to have a highly productive remote, or distributed, team using technology and various remote communication channels.

Communication setup should be easily available and accessible for all team members.  It is helpful to have high-quality tools – broadband connection for voice and video, good speakers and microphones, large screens.  Conversations tend to flow a lot smoother when people can recognize who is talking by their voice and when face expressions are visible on video without a delay.  The teams should also pre-configure and test communication software and hardware.  Every person on the team should be able to initiate and participate in conversations as needed with minimal hassle.  Meetings that spend the first 15-30 minutes fiddling with software accomplish less and are filled with frustration.

Another good way to foster communication on a distributed team is to allow conversations to flow before and after scheduled meetings, just like they would for a group of people in the same room.  Have a meeting line started ahead of scheduled time and allow people to continue talking after official meeting is over.

When a distributed team consists of several collocated groups, take special care to avoid ‘US vs THEM’ terminology and mentality.   Make sure people from different locations get to work with each other, as well as with team members from their own location.  Inform the entire team of accomplishments of all the other team members, regardless of where they happen to be located.   Every successful team has its own go-to people who are experts in certain areas.  The distributed team develops its experts by distributing information about members’ skills and figuring out ways to work together remotely.

Finally, hold the members of a distributed team accountable for reaching out to their fellow teammates.  It is the responsibility of every professional to gather resources needed for doing their work.  That includes finding the right people to cooperate with, building good working relationships, and establishing effective communication.  Whether local or remote, every member of a team needs to participate in the team if the team is to be productive and successful.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Visibility of Leadership

Photo by Fr. Dougal McGuire

Photo by Fr. Dougal McGuire

I've been thinking about how visible the leadership of an organization needs to be in an Agile Transformation.  What does it mean for an executive to delegate the transformation to his direct reports or a PMO?  Esther Derby pointed out years ago that:

The dictionary definition for delegate is “to commit or entrust to another.” Every time a manager delegates, there’s the possibility to build commitment and trust or erode trust and engagement.

Managers—because they are human—won’t do it perfectly every time. When that happens, managers can maintain trust by owning the part of the miscommunication that’s theirs. 

But how are managers and above recognizing their missteps as they are learning their new roles in the organization?  We often focus on agility at the development teams because it's easier to understand what needs to change, but managers may not receive feedback as regularly as team members.  Agility does not happen only at the development team level.  Or only in IT, for that matter.

I love the idea of trusting others and allowing decisions to be made at the lowest levels of the organization as possible--these are good things to see in an Agile organization.  But leaders need to be visible in order for employees to understand the culture change going on around them.  Change can be scary, and it doesn't help when those at the highest ranks of the organization are like the Wizard of Oz--rarely seen but often talked about and quite mysterious.  The Wizard of Oz is just a man, and while Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Lion all possessed what they had been seeking all along, it was recognition from the Wizard that helped make it real to them.

Culture change cannot be delegated, and it requires courage to move past "prescriptive agility."  Leaders can do a lot to remove fear and instill courage just by being more visible to employees.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Photo by Karen Roe

Photo by Karen Roe

When an organization is undergoing a cultural change, the behaviors that were rewarded yesterday may not align with the behaviors expected tomorrow.  The tenured employees who have been loyal and depended upon may not exhibit the values and practices that are needed for the organization to be successful going forward.  And if the organization is trying to become more agile, it may find that Generation Y grasps some of the changes more readily.  The team members who understand the goals and new way of working may be the "junior" ones... and the ones who struggle to adapt may be the "senior" folks who have contributed a lot of value over the years.

It may be hard, but it's important to reward the right behviors, and that may mean taking a second--and third--look at the people you've grown to count on to coach them appropriately as the culture changes.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.