Tag Archive: OpenAgile


Hello Reader,

I would like your insight on something. I’d like to start a Meetup.com group centered on OpenAgile, but I’m hung up on what it should be called and what the main aim would be. One reason I want to start a new group rather than tack onto another group is to try to attract people from other fields. There are already lots of agile and project management groups in the Bay Area, but there might be another audience for OpenAgile that we haven’t thought of. Also, beyond it’s popularity, a benefit of using Meetup.com is that the group can get sponsors and find some small means of funding itself.

I would welcome your feedback on these ideas or any others that you may have.

1) Bay Area OpenAgile Champions

Essentially, people who are working on developing OpenAgile would come together regularly to talk about the work in the current Cycle. This idea is more focused on keeping us in tune and engaged. Think community building as much as getting stuff done. Hmmm, we could probably do this without Meetup.com…

2) Agile Service Project (or “OpenAgile” Service Project?)

I tried to do something like this in Toronto, but it was hard to get off the ground. https://davidparker9.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/agile-service-project-toronto-2010/ I could see it working here. The audience that this would attract is project oriented, volunteer people. It would also give people who want certification in OpenAgile a way to get some hands on experience and be mentored through several Cycles.

3) New Economy Innovators (or Innovative Methodologies meetup)

Partly an attempt to move away from the word “agile” because it carries certain contexts – software, project management, technology – all very popular in the Bay Area. The focus would be on bringing people together who are coming up with new approaches to solving complex challenges. I spoke at a symposium in Toronto about this and got a very warm reception: https://davidparker9.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/the-story-behind-the-innovative-methodologies-session-april-28-in-toronto/ Truth is there are a lot of these kinds of meetups in the Bay Area as well.

So what do you think?

Last night I gave an Introduction to OpenAgile presentation to a warm and receptive audience in San Mateo, CA. The good folks at Agile Learning Labs sponsored the event by promoting it and feeding us delicious pizza. I can’t thank them enough for helping make last night possible. I also want to express my deep appreciation to everyone who attended and gave me their feedback and insights on the presentation itself.

We started the evening by dividing the audience into three groups who each discussed one of the foundations of OpenAgile – Truthfulness, Consultative Decision-Making, and the Learning Circle. It wasn’t required that each person read the OpenAgile Primer first. I wanted to see what insights would come from a discussion about what people understood about the concept in general rather than specifically what is stated in the Primer. This led to my biggest “aha” moment of the night. Even without reading the Primer, the groups were able to describe the essential characteristics of each foundation. They actually expressed several profound insights that aren’t covered in the text of the Primer itself but certainly could be. It’s like they just knew what the foundations mean. That says something to me about the intuitiveness of the OpenAgile framework. It also says to me that conversations about the foundations of OpenAgile can take place among people in many different environments.

After that exercise, I asked each person to write one burning question they have about OpenAgile on a sticky note. I would then try to answer as many of them as I could in the time remaining. Reading through the feedback forms I received, I recognize why some people found this to be a fairly unorthodox approach to a presentation. The questions they asked indicate that the audience members varied in their levels of experience with Agile methods. I found the range of questions and the ways the questions were phrased to be quite telling:

  • Does OpenAgile resonate with open source?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of OpenAgile?
  • Why would teams be more successful with OpenAgile than with Scrum?
  • Who invented OpenAgile and why?
  • Why another “Agile”?
  • What does the “Open” in OpenAgile stand for?
  • Who is currently developing OpenAgile?
  • How does OpenAgile relate to Agile?
  • How is OpenAgile different than other methodologies?
  • Why Open Agile? (I took this to mean why is OpenAgile open source.)
  • Why the “open” in OpenAgile? Is there a ClosedAgile?
  • About the Growth Facilitator role: When is it possible not to have one in a team/project?
  • What differentiates OpenAgile from Agile AND What, if any, are its advantages (and potential drawbacks)?
  • Is OpenAgile evolutionary or static?
  • Is OpenAgile a methodology or simply a philosophy that can be used by any methodology?
  • What types of projects can it be applied to?
  • What is the advantage of OpenAgile?
  • Creating Interest: How can you get adoption in naturally resistive cultures? Are their easy hooks or high value propositions?
  • Who is using OpenAgile right now (i.e. big companies, teams, etc.)?
  • What industries can use it?
  • About Growth Facilitator role: What is the difference between this role and the product owner role?
  • What type of projects would be benefited with OpenAgile? For example, product development, application development, customization?
  • Is “organic growth” analogous to “emergent design“?
  • Compare OpenAgile in a continuum of other Agile methods/frameworks like XP, Scrum, Kanban
  • How does OpenAgile compare with the other Agile methodologies?
  • Differentiate the different forms of Agile development
  • Is OpenAgile directed towards quality or just timeliness?
  • How can I apply OpenAgile?
  • What works best to establish OpenAgile in an existing workforce?
  • What is the role of leadership?
  • Describe its use outside software: manufacturing, hardware, non-high tech

The feedback form asked for a one or two sentence anonymous recommendation for others considering taking a similar presentation. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did getting them:

  • A new view on Agile in practice
  • Sharing thoughts with David and other attendees helped me better formulate my understanding of OpenAgile specifically and Agile in general. Thanks.
  • David modeled the simplicity, humility, honesty, and openness which the OpenAgile model represents.
  • Good intro to a brand new topic.  Made me want to learn more.
  • provides understanding of a variant of the Agile methodology which can be used outside of software development
  • Good initiation for OpenAgile
  • Useful for teams that have adopted agile and feel that it has not worked well.
  • Framework different approach
  • It takes the “there is no silver bullet” statement to a deeper level
  • Good to see the questions about how OpenAgile applies, sometimes better than, for example, Scrum.
  • David was patient and a very good listener. This helped answer many questions that came up.
  • David was able to instigate a lot of very interesting discussions and debates.
  • Thanks for the Pizza!

I have been studying the OpenAgile Primer. Even though I helped publish it and am actively working to improve the Primer and OpenAgile itself, there are lessons that can be gained from revisiting the concepts, terms, and insights over and over again. The OpenAgile Primer is a dynamic document that improves as OpenAgile grows and develops. Take that to heart as you read the outline below. I encourage you to study the Primer yourself and create your own summary. And when you do, let’s have a meaningful conversation about your own insights.

OpenAgile Primer Conceptual Outline

CHAPTER 1 – Foundations of OpenAgile

1) Truthfulness

“Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues” – Baha’u’llah
  • basic human capacity that everyone can develop
  • aspect of truthfulness
  • implications of truthfulness
  • how to develop truthfulness
  • benefit “truthfulness builds trust and leads to reducing excessive bureaucracy and chaos”
  • be aware of our own limitations (uses example of Six Blind Men and the Elephant)

2) Consultative Decision-Making

“We never undertook to do any thing of any importance which was likely to affect each other, without mutual consultation. We were generally a unit, and moved together.” – Frederick Douglass
  • a system for teams to take coherent action based on a unified vision
  • mindset for consultative decision-making
  • Rules of consultative decision-making
  • Unified Action

3) The Learning Circle

“Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back” – Chinese Proverb
  • a model of effective learning
  • Four steps: Reflection, Learning, Planning, Action
  • Four capacities: Detachment, Search, Love, Courage
  • Guidance

CHAPTER 2 – OpenAgile Process

systematic application of the Learning Circle

Goals

  • work is done to accomplish a goal
  • nature and importance of goals

Work in Cycles

  • Cycle is a step towards a goal with the purpose of producing value
  • Three rules of working in Cycles
  • 1) apply the Learning Circle to every Cycle
  • 2) work in Cycles of equal length
  • 3) work in short Cycles

Cycle Input: Value Drivers

  • definition of “value”
  • tip for articulating a Value Driver
  • work on Value Drivers in priority order
  • explanation of traditional value delivery (Project Management)
  • difference between Organic and Mechanical systems
  • application of the Learning Circle ensures that we continue to do valuable work

Engagement Meeting

  • start of every Cycle
  • review our Goal and the list of prioritized Value Drivers
  • break down Value Drivers into tasks
  • duration of the Engagement Meeting
  • Reflection during the Engagement Meeting
  • Learning during the Engagement Meeting

Cycle Plan

  • collection of tasks derived from the Value Drivers that we intend to do during the Cycle
  • awareness of our capacity to complete the tasks
  • a note about perfection
  • volunteering for tasks
  • commitment to the Cycle Plan

Core Types of Tasks

  • Calender Events
  • Repetitive Activities
  • Quality Problems
  • Obstacles
  • New Artifacts
  • commitment to the Cycle Plan

Inside a Cycle

  • completing tasks in the Cycle Plan
  • importance of maintaining a positive attitude
  • volunteering for tasks
  • tracking progress and Progress Meetings

CHAPTER 3 – The Participants in OpenAgile

  • only one role: the “Team Member” who does work as part of the Cycle Plan
  • there are “Paths of Service” – engaged participants who serve a team or organization

Paths of Service

Process Facilitator

  • help us follow rules
  • help us develop capacity to apply the principles

Growth Facilitator

  • grow capacity and value of the team
  • valuable input and output from every Cycle
  • prioritize Value Drivers
  • engage with Stakeholders

Advanced Capacities

  • Mentor, Tutor, Catalyst work outside a Team and provide Guidance
  • (Personal Reflection: Should this be reworded to “Advanced Paths of Service”?)

OpenAgile Teams

Self-Organizing Behaviour

  • volunteer for tasks
  • be open to following Guidance

Success Factors for Productive OpenAgile Teams

  • small number of people (less than 12 team members)
  • complementary skills
  • common purpose; commitment to the overall Goal as well as the Cycle Plan
  • have specific performance goals; be able to measure our results
  • agree how you’re going to work together
  • make and keep commitments; adjust our behaviour as we learn

Large Groups

  • communities and organizations can use OpenAgile to achieve goals that are beyond the ability of small teams
  • use longer Cycles
  • have Teams within the group that use shorter Cycles

Stakeholders

  • recipients of the value being delivered
  • (Reflection: Should this be reworded to “co-creators” of value? Get feedback from the OpenAgile Champions)

Chapter 4 – How to Start?

  • get some people together, read the Primer, have an Engagement Meeting
  • but if you desire more preparation…

Before Your First Cycle

  • decide who will participate (strive to have people complimentary skills)
  • generate and prioritize a list of Value Drivers
  • give thought to the work space and tools for collaboration
  • what is your Goal?
  • Cycle duration and start of first Cycle?
  • do you need help from a Tutor, Mentor, or catalyst?
  • get Team Member training

Your First Cycle

  • be realistic
  • at first, you won’t know your capacity to make and keep commitments
  • it’s okay to feel awkward
  • get help from someone who can accompany you

The Most Important Advice

  • Just start!
  • systematic, incremental improvements are inherent in the system
  • you will get better as you go
Cross-posted from www.openagile.com, this is an interview I conducted with Mishkin Berteig, Co-Founder of Berteig Consulting, about the world’s need for an open source agile methodology. Along with Mishkin and myself, there are 20 other dedicated people who have arisen to serve the OpenAgile Community as champions. They’re applying OpenAgile to many different environments and sharing what they’re learning so we can improve the methodology.  For example, Barry Turner of Turner Agile Project Solutions is implementing this approach at a small town museum, and Jim Heidema of Professional Sales Plus has been active in using OpenAgile in the financial services industry. Everyone is welcome to get involved and contribute.

There are numerous resources on the web that cover traditional ways of looking at volunteer management. However, there is very little written about how one might create a job description for a volunteer at an Agile non-profit organization. Here’s a little comparison of the two perspectives:

The traditional human resource approach puts volunteer job descriptions in the context of the organization’s strategic plan. Proponents essentially say:

  1. develop a strategic plan
  2. decide and document the tasks needed to carry out the plan
  3. decide if you need volunteers to do those tasks given your constraints
  4. create a job description of those tasks
  5. recruit the volunteer to fit the job description
  6. train the volunteer so they’re clear on your expectations
  7. monitor to see if the volunteer is meeting your expectations

The traditional human resource approach says everyone should have a job description that lays out the organization’s expectations and the person’s specific duties. The underlying idea is that people are more likely to give their time when they know what they will be doing. People also want assurance that their work is important and contributes to the goals of the organization. Without this comfort and confidence, they will be unsatisfied with the volunteer opportunity and will do a poor job, leave the organization, or worse, do some damage to the organization’s reputation.

An Agile Approach

Thanks to OpenAgile, Agile is not just for software development anymore, and many of the practices seem to be a strong fit for maximizing resources at a non-profit organization, especially when it comes to managing volunteers. Some of the principles underlying an Agile approach are to avoid excessive bureaucracy, long-term planning, and static role definitions. Proponents of Agile think of job descriptions as guidelines rather than requirements. An Agile process to managing volunteers could look something like this:

  1. the organization starts with a goal
  2. begin working toward the goal with anyone who is committed to doing the work (the “team”)
  3. as the team works through successive iterations (cycles of action, reflection, learning, and planning), the team learns what they need to be more efficient and effective
  4. if the team learns that they need specific skills, the team makes obtaining those skills a priority and they learn the skill themselves or seek someone with those skills to contribute to the work
  5. if a volunteer is interested in contributing to the work, the team can decide if the skills that person offers matches what the team needs to do their work
  6. welcome the skills and interests of the new team member and continue working towards the goal

Agile encourages organizations to use cross-functional teams composed of people who are committed to doing the work and willing to experiment by trying and learning. In an Agile environment, the team focuses on the goal, not their personal job descriptions. Team members are free to complete any task they want. For example, imagine a task for doing some work on a website. I may not have experience to complete the task easily, but if I’m free to try. It’s possible that I’ll learn something new that will make it easier to complete the task the next time. As they work, volunteers develop competencies and skills that complement those of the other members of the team.

Template for creating a job description for an Agile volunteer:

Position: Team Member

Purpose: To provide value to the stakeholders of the organization (ex. staff, community members, constituents, frontline workers)

Primary Duty: To aggressively learn and experiment to improve the ways the organization does work. This applies to all aspects of our work, including: stakeholder relationships, organizational effectiveness, process and tool efficiency, skill and capacity building, and underlying conceptual framework.

Secondary Duties:
To work jointly with all team members to help achieve the organization’s goals
To engage with the team members to create and commit to a Cycle Plan
To use your knowledge, interests, and skills to help the team complete the work in the Cycle Plan
To participate in regularly scheduled progress meetings with the team
To help the team to keep its commitments to the organization and its stakeholders
To make sure that the work done holds to the organization’s standards

Interesting Resources for Further Reading:

Agile:

OpenAgile – The OpenAgile Primer

Scott Ambler, Agile Modeling – Generalizing Specialists: Improving Your IT Career Skills

Mishkin Berteig, AgileAdvice – The Wisdom of Teams and”generalizing specialists”

Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide – Are You Ready for an Agile Future? An Agile Organization Embraces Change

Traditional:

Community Services Council Newfoundland and Labrador – Volunteer Management Resources

Joanne Fritz, About.com Guide – Before You Recruit Volunteers

Mary V. Merrill, World Volunteer Web – Developing volunteer job descriptions

Six Blind Men and an Elephant

I was reflecting on the story about The Blind Men and the Elephant. As the story goes, each man touches one part of the elephant and describes what he thinks an elephant looks like.  The first man touches the leg, and feeling how straight and sturdy the leg is, says “an elephant looks like a tree trunk.”  The second man, feeling the sharp point and hardness of the elephant’s tusk, says “it looks like a spear.”  The third man runs his hands over the elephant’s side, and feeling its towering height and solid build, says “it looks like a wall.”  The fourth man, tugging on the elephant’s tail, says “it looks like a rope.” The fifth man, grappling with the thick squirmy trunk, says “it looks like a snake.” And the sixth man, touching the elephant’s ear, says “it looks like a fan.”  Each of the blind men only “see” reality based on their limited experience.

I started using social media as part of my job search strategy. (Check out 7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media by Dan Schwabel for some ideas.) I jumped into Tweeting and Linking-In and Facebooking with gusto, but since, I’ve begun to ask myself “Am I showing people the whole me or just the side of the elephant I want them to see?” Someone who follows me on Twitter sees the side of me that is interested in corporate social responsibility (#CSR).  Or Social Enterprise #SocEnt.  They also see me tweeting about OpenAgile, which is a way of applying agility to environments beyond software development.  And I tweet about the persecution of members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran, which is an injustice that I am very concerned about. Do these tweets paint a whole picture of me?

My LinkedIn profile says that I’m a “Communications and Marketing professional with a passion for Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Innovation”.  This is true. It is also incomplete.  I am also more than a “Sustainability practitioner with an international development education, strong business acumen, and a passion for human rights and the environment. Successfully delivered results in both corporate and non-profit organizations. Experienced in business development, marketing, community relations, and project management. Interested in contributing to the sustainability of organizations that are committed to doing ‘good’ while doing ‘well’.”

I believe it is tempting for people going through a career transition, and who are trying to use social media to network and build their online “brand”, to show others what they think others want to see.

The truth is every one of us is like the elephant in the story. We are all so much more than our online profiles, Twitter feeds, Facebook photos, and blogs. And although we’re not always aware of it, we are whole beings. We are one, and we live one life. True “friends” and “followers” want the real you. Be authentic.

*Note: Thanks to Berteig Consulting for the use of the elephant image and for introducing me to the story in the OpenAgile Primer.

I am helping Berteig Consulting give a free information session at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto.  The topic is: How Social Innovators can take an Agile approach to achieving their mission

Here are the details:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Centre for Social Innovation
Toronto
215 Spadina Avenue – 1st Floor Boardroom

What business practices do companies like Google, Toyota, and Research in Motion have in common? They all follow an approach called Agile, a unique way of looking at business that:

  • Encourages innovation throughout the organization
  • Delivers valuable work quickly and frequently
  • Continuously improves quality
  • Eliminates traditional siloed processes
  • Teaches teams how to manage themselves
  • Creates a flexible work environment that produces dedicated employees

Fundamental to the Agile approach is the strong conviction that individuals and interactions are more valuable than processes and tools, that truthfulness is the foundation of success, and that generosity of spirit is the foundation of prosperity. Berteig Consulting, the Canadian leader in Agile coaching and training, has developed a systematic framework to help individuals, teams and organizations assess their capacity to implement and benefit from Agile practices and then to build on their own strengths to become more reliable, hyper-producers of value for their customers, communities and society.

In this introduction to Agile methods, you will learn:

  • how Social Innovators can use Agile practices to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity toward achieving their mission
  • the difference between Agile methods and traditional project management
  • how to introduce consultative decision-making and self-managing teams into your organization

Since its inception, Berteig Consulting has been at the forefront of learning in the realm of Agile methods, practices and disciplines. We are looking for partners who are interested in contributing to a case study on Agile in the environmental and social innovation sectors. Selected organizations will receive substantial free management training and coaching in exchange for participating in the case study.

Admission is free and open only to innovators in the social and environmental sectors

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