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Fear, A Major Speed Bump on the Road to Quality

by Angela 3. February 2017 22:26

I warned you that I’d be blogging about the “messiness” of ALM and DevOps consulting. And this is a long one so grab a cup of coffee, tea, or cocktail of your choice (whatever I won’t judge). It’s actually based on something I wrote for the QAI Quest Magazine. If you haven’t checked out the CQAA (Chicago Quality Assurance Association) community or their upcoming QUEST conference in Chicago this April, I highly recommend it!

Anyway, here is the article:

A large part of my job as a scrum master and agile coach is focusing on quality. Quality of process, quality of teams, and quality of software. While all of these can be challenging to improve, one of the hardest to tackle is quality of the team. I’m not talking about individual’s skillsets, although that is important. I’m talking about the ability of the team to work together as a WHOLE. In my experience, teams that cannot accomplish this cannot produce a quality product. Missed requirements, sloppy handoffs, miscommunication of what is “done”, and a host of other issues arise when the team just can’t seem to come together in a truly open and collaborative environment. Causes for this failure are complex and will vary from team to team. But one that I run into time and time again is fear. Yes, fear!

I’m not a psychologist and I don’t purport to know all the answers, but I can speak from experience - both in terms of myself and what I see in others. I have seen fear manifest itself in the following situations:

· Underestimating feature delivery times to hide a lack of confidence, often leading to painful sprint reviews when committed features aren’t delivered on time, or not at all.

· Code being integrated too soon to avoid being late, resulting in bugs “leaking” into production.

· Misunderstood requirements being implemented without question, and promptly being rejected by QA or a frustrated product owner.

· Resentment when team members feel someone is not pulling their weight, when in reality that person is silently struggling.

· Failure by team members to ask for clarification because everyone else surely must “get it”.

The fear of being seen as not good enough or smart enough by our peers is real and pervasive in IT. Ironically, the end result of hiding our struggles is often working extra hours and even cutting corners to make the unrealistic deadlines that we set for ourselves. This inevitably leads to doing the very thing we are fearful of … letting people down.

Tying this back to quality:

· Imagine if the team was afraid to admit that a requirement was vague, that it would be extremely complex to develop, or almost impossible to adequately test.

· Imagine if they assumed they’d figure it out as they go and plowed ahead.

· Imagine if someone on the team rushed to complete a feature and skimped on testing to prevent blowing their estimates because of fear of retribution for being wrong.

You probably don’t have to imagine it. It’s likely happening on your team right now but no one is talking about it! So, what can you do once you’ve realized that fear is holding you or your team back? What I have learned on my own journey is that it’s not enough to recognize when I am acting from a place of fear; I also have to recognize it in others. And much like quality, it is EVERYONE’S responsibility to create a collaborative and supportive environment.

As a Scrum Master, here are some of the things that I ask myself in order to help address fear on my teams.

· Is someone new to the team, or to their role, and clearly feeling overwhelmed or struggling to fit in?

· Is someone is hesitating to speak up when they clearly have a strong opinion or idea?

· Are people afraid of being judged harshly or told their idea is “crazy” or “dumb” in a team setting?

 

Now, that’s a lot of stuff to keep an eye on. (Hey…no one ever said that being the Scrum Master was an easy job.) So, let’s say that you notice something. What do you do about it? How do you head-off fear and/or actually do something about it?

Well, if someone on the team shares a concern or asks for help, be sure to thank them for bringing it up and offer them support, or try to connect them with someone who can. If people are hesitant to speak up in a large group setting, approach them after the meeting, and discuss it in a more casual environment. If they need some encouragement or support, find a way to share their ideas with the team in a less intimidating way. Find ways to bring new team members on-board and make them feel connected quickly. Make sure no one is discouraging open and honest conversation by dominating conversations or by openly criticizing ideas or opinions, even jokingly. Joking, while good natured, can be misconstrued as criticism, and simply telling a teammate that they “just can’t take a joke” is a great way to alienate them and ensure their participation in future activities is limited. Besides, some of the biggest discoveries in history started with an original premise that was totally out there!

I’ve given talks on fear at a number of conferences, and every time people have approached me afterwards saying “I feel that way too. It’s so good to know I am not alone!” Research shows that around 70% of people struggle with these kinds of fears, and based on my experience, it is higher in IT! That means that in any given meeting you attend, MOST of the people in the room are afraid to share their thoughts for fear of negative consequences. Imagine all of the great ideas being squandered and land mines we are failing to avoid.

Hopefully you’re already thinking of ways to improve the quality of your team, and ultimately of the products you are delivering. Strive to be more vigilant, more supportive, more honest, and you will be well on your way to creating a high-quality and high-performing team!

 

If you’re attending quest, I also have a few sessions there that you may want to check out if this article spoke to you.

Getting Your Agile Team Unstuck! Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Common Agile Setbacks: http://qaiquest.org/2017/sessions/half-day-tutorial-getting-your-agile-team-unstuck-tips-and-tricks-for-avoiding-common-agile-setbacks/

Fear and (Self) Loathing in IT: A Healthy Discussion on Imposter Syndrome: http://qaiquest.org/2017/sessions/fear-and-self-loathing-in-it-a-healthy-discussion-on-imposter-syndrome/ 

And if you’re not attending Quest feel free to send me a message via this blog or on Twitter!

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Polaris Solutions Agile Lunch and Learn Series Continues with Rapid Product Development on Sept 28

by Angela 29. August 2016 17:07

You may have noticed that the Chicago Visual Studio ALM user group has been ramping down, and in its place we are ramping up an Agile Lunch and Learn series. This past winter we had a Release Management and DevOps themes event, this Spring we covered SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), and this Fall we are introducing a talk on Rapid Product Development.  I am really excited about this one, as its a topic near and dear to my agile heart, and the speaker (Zach Beer) is someone who has lived rapid product development for a good portion of his career. Zach is a recent addition to the Polaris family and he has some amazing experiences in the Chicago Startup community to draw from for this talk.  We are so excited to have him on our team, and to be able to bring his expertise to our clients and the community. Check out the details below, and sign up soon if you are interested, we have only 16 spots available for this one. Below are the details…

 

Agile Lunch and Learn: Rapid Product Delivery

Do you feel like your team is grasping at straws about what your customers want?  Do your customers wait weeks or months for a release that doesn’t address their most pressing needs?

Lots of organizations struggle to find the most effective way to meet their customers’ needs.  Agile processes like Scrum can help organize teams, but they don’t explicitly show teams how to deliver the most value to customers.  In this presentation, we’ll discuss how choosing what you work on is as important as how you work on it, how product development can go sideways, and what strategies your team can use immediately to start delivering value to your customers sooner.

Please join our Agile experts for this free lunch and learn to hear more about how you can transform your company into a high-performance customer-pleasing engine.

Complimentary lunch will be provided to registered attendees.

Seating is limited. Register now!

 

Event Info

September 28, 2016  11:30 AM – 1:00 PM CDT

Microsoft Office – Downers Grove

3025 Highland Pkwy Suite #200

Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

clip_image002Zach Beer is an agile strategist and Senior Consultant with Polaris Solutions.  He has spent the last ten years developing software for start-ups around the Chicago area, gaining deep technical and organizational skills applicable to a range of industries and corporate structures.  He specializes in understanding business value and applying that understanding to the process of creating software. A certified scrum master, software architect, and speaker, he is passionate about helping people and companies reach their potential.

 

Polaris Solutions, LLC

Polaris Solutions is an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) consulting firm. We specialize in helping teams deliver high value software through technical leadership, process improvement, and software development expertise.

PolarisSolutions.com

info@polarissolutions.com

Tags:

Agile | Scrum | Software Development Lifecycle Management | ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Product Development

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Chicago Coder Conference is Next Week! Hope to see you there

by Angela 1. June 2016 16:41

There are a lot of conferences in Chicago this summer, well I suppose technically it’s still spring but from these temps you’d never know it! Anyway, I was invited to speak at Chicago Coder Conference this year (not to be confused with the awesome CCC = Chicago Code Camp conference), and I’d never really considered it before.  With all of the other conferences I am involved in and speaking at, it just hadn’t made the cut. I recently checked out their session list and holy cow are there some great people speaking, including a few of my coworkers. There is even a full day of hands-on sessions where you can dig in deep. It’s an seriously action-lacked 3 days. A few of the bigger names you might recognize are Doc Norton, Uncle Bob Martin, and Joel Tosi.

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the great topics being presented by some of the folks at Polaris Solutions, including yours truly:

 

Steven Contos

June 7, 2016 - Session 1 – Coding the Most Complex “Hello World” Program Ever Written and More Hyperbole

Room 600 from 10:00 AM  -  11:00 AM

Florin Ciobanu

June 6, 2016 - Session 1 – Xamarin! The Babel Fish in the Developer’s Guide to the Mobile Apps

Room 621 from 10:00 AM  -  11:00 PM

Kevin Fitzpatrick

June 6, 2016 - Session 4 – Dear Coder: The Problem is Over Here!

Room 600 from 2:30 PM  -  3:30 PM

Angela Dugan

June 7, 2016 - Lunch & Learn – Improve your Retrospectives with Agile Kaizen!

Room 621 from 12:15 PM  -  1:15 PM

June 7, 2016  - Session 4 – Deconstructing the Scaled Agile Framework

Room 404 from 2:30 PM  -  3:30 PM

 

It’s not too late to sign up, and I may still have some discount codes I can share if you want to get in on it.  If you are interested, hit me up through the contact link on my blog for more info!

And while you’re in the mood to check out AMAZING local conferences, be sure to check out ThatConference!  I wrote a blog post about it here, including a great overview and some pictures. Check it out.  Hope to see you at Chicago Coder Conference next week, and at ThatConference in August!

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Chicago Code Camp Call for Speakers is Open

by Angela 17. February 2016 08:52

In case you haven’t heard, Chicago Code Camp call for speakers opened last week and we need you! Not heard of Chicago Code Camp? Well, grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair because we have a great story! This is our 8th year, and once again we’ll be staying in downtown Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology to make sure we are centrally located and easy to get to by car, train, or subway. It is a day to learn from the community. It is a day to contribute to the community. Please join us by sponsoring, attending, speaking, or all three! We cannot be successful without you. 

The mission of Chicago Code Camp is to provide a credible resource within the IT industry. Our goal is to offer a wide range of opportunities to learn about advancements in our field, to share knowledge from our experiences, and to develop valued relationships with our peers. To that end, Chicago Code Camp is a FREE, day-long event. We are here to connect the talent and expertise within the Developer community of the Windy City, and that includes YOU. Discussions for the day have previously included development and trending topics in .net, java, open sourced frameworks, web, mobile, cloud, robotics, testing, soft skills, and more.

So what ideas, technologies, or strategies do you want to share with us? Everyone has something to contribute, whether its information on a new JavaScript framework, teaching us how to leverage Docker to strengthen our DevOps practices, sharing experiences adopting scrum, or how to handle ourselves better in job interviews. We are looking for a broad set of experiences across just about any topic related to being a technology professional.

Note on our selection process: In order to be fair towards all the speakers who submit for sessions for the Code Camp, the speakers are chosen via a blind voting process by the Chicago Code Camp Advisory Council (CCCAC). The advisory council is made up of various local and regional user group leaders and industry experts. The council will only see the topic title, abstract, and level of difficulty of the talk when voting for the abstract. The council does not have access to the presenter's information. The abstracts with highest votes are then placed into tracks and presenters are notified.

So take a few minutes to absorb some caffeine, think about some topics you’d be willing to share with the rest of the tech community in Chicago, then submit your ideas here: http://www.chicagocodecamp.com/Submissions/WantToShare

 

Hope to see you at Chicago Code Camp this April!  Oh, and general registration is not open yet, but stay tuned for news on that Smile

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David Hussman on How to Build the Wrong Thing Faster and Learn From It at the CAOS in July

by Angela 18. June 2015 11:58

Lately the conversations I am seeing happen around agile are more about what agile is really about, as opposed to specifically how to “do it right”. Getting a break from drum beating around which practices are “real agile” or “real scrum” is really refreshing. I’ve been particularly re-energized by the conversations around MVP, minimal viable product, and how it’s NOT just a v1.0 of your app. Instead, a better way to think about your MVP is that it’s the earliest possible opportunity for learning*. Learning what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and figuring out how to improve are key things you can take away from your MVPs. I feel like it was always an undercurrent of WHY people released MVPs in the first place, but at the end of the day it was often marketed as getting code into customers hands sooner. I’ve never met a C-level executive with numbers to make that was jazzed about tossing a barely functional V1 of their app out to customers purely as a rapid time to market strategy. It’s simply not compelling enough given all the risks that strategy could bring.  But tell them that it’s about better focusing of the (very expensive) team’s efforts, more quickly getting to the heart of what customers REALLY want, and not wasting time on the things customers don’t care about? That equates to real dollars, and the C-level folks can put their arms around that. It’s not even that revolutionary of a concept, I think a number of people in the race to adopt agile get hung up on the execution, and lose sight of the goal. 

*I’d give credit to someone specific for that little nugget, but everyone I follow on agile lately is saying this and I have no idea any more who said it first.

I won’t wax philosophic on it further, because that’s the whole purpose of the meet-up I want to encourage you to attend in Chicago next month. In fact, it is a SUPER meet-up. For real, how do you NOT attend a free *super* meet-up. More details can be found at the Chicago Agile Open Space Meetup site but here’s a brief synopsis to tempt you into joining the group and signing up to attend:

 

David Hussman - How to Build the Wrong Thing Faster and Learn From It

  • For years we’ve worked hard at software development. Agile methods have allowed teams to establish better flow in software development; refactoring language, not just code, presents itself as the next meaningful evolution. Can ‘software development’ be refactored to ‘product development’? Some brave pioneers that are already doing this, and are re-learning that building the product is much less clear than simply getting work done. The land of product development is filled with holes or ambiguity and laced with land mines of wrongness. Ideas that you are certain about often fizzle or change when you watch someone interact with your product. Being overly certain or overly focusing on ‘just getting work done’ are weak weapons in a place where being wrong, and learning from it, is a vital part of finding your way to success.

Instead of talking about ‘why you should do agile,’ let’s explore ‘why you should think in product,’ assuming you are using some agile practices. Our journey will explore the messy, sloppy and non-linear aspects of product development. Along the way, we’ll investigate how software construction is important, but courageously failing and learning in product is even more essential. We’ll look at how some teams are producing more real product value with less code. We will also peer into the world of program level development, where collections of teams produce product without injecting incidental complexity by employing what you might call ‘test driven product.’

Who knows, toward the end of the journey, we might even rally to refactor the agile manifesto to read ‘Learning in Product over Simply Getting Things Done.’”

 

Hope to see you there on July 20th! If you can’t make it for this one, be sure to join the meetup to learn about other upcoming topics.

Tags:

Agile | Application Lifecycle Management | Scrum | ALM | Product Development

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