Tag Archive: Reflection


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
During a period of reflection yesterday, I did a bit of brainstorming on my personal profile. It started as a resume-building exercise. What was on the surface of my mind came out rather easily. However, as is typical of these free form reflection techniques, my conscious mind started to probe deeper. Today, in going back through the reflections for this post, my notes pushed me to think even more deeply about what emerged and helped me draw new conclusions.

Profile of David D. Parker:

open-minded idealist who sees the bright side in all things
hard worker with 7 years experience in community relations and marketing
builder of agile social enterprises
googler of everything he doesn’t know
dreamer
advancer of civilization

lover of Bahá’u’lláh

wonderer
reader of books slowly
lover of gardening and fishing and generally all things green
fixer of things around the house
husband and spiritual companion of Layla
Moment of inspiration: “The true marriage of Baha’is is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

one who enjoys:

to cross things off to-do lists
to track tasks on sticky notes on a wall
listening to podcasts social entrepreneurship, social innovation, business, society, community building
watching NCAA college football (especially for the few seconds they show of the marching band’s half-time show)
listening to drum corps music
natural beauty in the world

one who is interested in:

building a culture of learning
social entrepreneurship
social innovation
agile methods
complexity science
corporate social responsibility
social enterprise
social media
social finance
social economy
In truth, these are not separate things. They are all One.

one who values:

unity
justice
truthfulness
being of service
contributing to the world
making a difference in the lives of others

one who worries about:

money…

hmmm… this is actually indicative of another thing I value. I value financial sustainability. I don’t need much. I want “to be satisfied with whatsoever Thou hast ordained for me.” (Bahá’í Prayer)

But still I need means to achieve my purpose in life.

If I didn’t have to worry about money, what would I do?  I would work on OpenAgile because it is inspiring. It does exactly for me what it is intended to do for others. The purpose of OpenAgile is “To create an environment in which people are free to express their true nature and capacities to contribute to the betterment of their organization.” Anytime I am applying OpenAgile to my work in an organization, I feel like I am doing this. When I’m applying OpenAgile, I am capable of putting all of my energy into whatever I’m doing. I don’t get distracted.

Some things that I’ve done where I applied OpenAgile and felt a strong sense of accomplishment: fixing my deck, making a nice garden, fixing up my house. These are all tangible things that are the result of focused effort. And all of these grew in quality over successive iterations.

Now I’m reflecting on something else: What does this tell me about my purpose in life (at least my current understanding of  it)?

I believe that to be of service to others, I must help them find a new approach to getting things done which allows them to align their inner and outer character. To break down the false dichotomy in our society that says we have to be either a spiritual or a material being. We can be both, and we can have purpose and meaning in our work environment. OpenAgile has shown me that, and I want to show other people OpenAgile.

I was recently interviewed for HowtoBecome.TV by Jayce Broda, a social entrepreneur in his own right, who aspires to “tell stories of those in the business of change.” It is an honor to be included. I hope you enjoy my very first interview on social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and building a career in the social economy.

http://blip.tv/play/hrwrgovCdwI%2Em4v

Here’s the link to the interview on HowtoBecome.TV: http://howtobecome.tv/2010/11/how-to-become-a-social-entrepreneur-david-parker/

Let’s continue this discussion on Twitter. Follow me at http://twitter.com/davidparker9

I am engaged in a learning process with a charity that has undertaken to implement a new model of volunteer coordination based on OpenAgile, an open source agile method.  We recently held an orientation with our new volunteers.  In the hopes that this information will be useful to others who are trying to innovate on their  model of volunteer coordination, here are the instructions I shared with the volunteers.  In summary, they cover our process for sharing tasks, the tools we use to communicate with each other, and our use of what we are calling “60/40 time” a twist on Google’s “20 percent time“.

ORIENTATION INSTRUCTIONS:

I. Agile Volunteer Team Process

We are all here to support the charity. We are inspired by its mission and goals, and we want to help in a way that draws on all of our abilities, knowledge, skills, and creativity.
Our team uses a specific system for producing valuable results. We work in Cycles of 5 weeks. The charity’s staff talk with the stakeholders and decide what steps are necessary for accomplishing the organization’s goals. Each one of these steps, called Value Drivers, add up to providing value for the stakeholders once they’re delivered. The staff also decide the priority order for completing the Value Drivers.
In week 1 of the Cycle, there is a planning meeting with all the volunteers who are committed to doing work during the 5 week Cycle. All volunteers are urged to attend and participate.
  1. The meeting begins with reflecting on the results of the previous Cycle. These observations and lessons are an important part of the planning process.
  2. Next, the team of volunteers works together to create a Cycle Plan by taking the highest priority Value Driver and breaking it down into tasks. Tasks are represented by sticky notes on the wall.
  3. Third, the volunteer team counts the number of tasks needed to complete the highest priority Value Driver. If the past Cycle showed that the team can complete more tasks, then the team takes the next Value Driver in the list and breaks it down into tasks. This process continues until the team makes a unified decision that it has taken on the amount of work it can actually accomplish.
  4. The last part of the meeting is commitment. Everyone shares the responsibility for completing the Value Driver (represented by multiple tasks) by the end of the Cycle of work. Therefore each volunteer must truthfully commit to completing the work. If a volunteer is not comfortable committing to all the work on the task wall, then some tasks must be removed until everyone is able to commit.
In week 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Cycle, the team of volunteers complete the tasks in the Cycle Plan (aka “doing work”).
  1. Volunteers are free to take whatever task is of interest to them. If they need more information about the task, they ask the other volunteers or the staff for details.
  2. When a volunteer begins a task, they sign their name on the bottom of the sticky and move the task into the “in progress” column.
  3. When a volunteer completes a task, they move the task into the “done” column.
  4. There are weekly conference calls where all the volunteers check in. They answer 4 simple questions
    1. What did I do last week?
    2. What will I do this week?
    3. What did I learn/observe?
    4. What obstacles, if any, are affecting my ability to do work?
  5. New tasks can be added to the wall based on any of the volunteers’ observations, obstacles, clarifications, questions, urgent new tasks, etc. If you add a new task to the wall, add your name to the bottom of the task, so that other volunteers can know who to go to for questions. Note that these new tasks must also be completed by the end of the 5 week Cycle.
At the end of the 5 week Cycle, the team presents the valuable results it has produced to the charity staff/stakeholders. Any insights, observations, corrections, etc. are factored into the next Cycle Plan.

II. Communication Tools

Over the time we have worked together, the volunteer team has decided to use a few tools to help us communicate. The main tool is the task wall and sticky notes. The secondary tool is a shared Gmail account.
NOTE: This list of instructions is a working, evolving document; it is not set in stone. Volunteers are encouraged to work together and adapt the way we do things to create a system that works well for all of us.
ACCOUNT INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Login and read new messages
  2. Emails in the Inbox means there is work to be done (if the task is complete, archive the email to remove from the Inbox aka the To Do List)
  3. Apply Labels – Gmail doesn’t use folders; it uses labels instead. Apply labels to emails to assist other volunteers with how to treat the content of that message.
  4. Write up volunteer tasks for the task wall (Note: Label as “Task Written & Posted”)
  5. Get work done:
  6. Move the task on the wall to in progress
  7. If the task came from an email, label the task with your name
  8. When the task is complete, label as “Task Complete” and archive the email so it doesn’t appear in the Inbox
CURRENT LABELS:
  • ??? – this means more information or context is required to understand the request –> ASK QUESTIONS, or get help, to complete the task
  • By Volunteer Name –> This means the task/email is in progress; A volunteer labels the email with their name when they accept responsibility for a particular task
  • FYI (For Your Information) – these are emails that contain information that is relevant to volunteers, but does not necessarily require action be taken. If action is required, write up a task and post it on the wall)
  • Task Complete – Use this to label When a task is complete; archive the email so it doesn’t appear in the Inbox
  • Task Written & Posted – apply this label after you write up the task and post it on the wall
  • Social Media – these are emails that apply specifically to social media like Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Website – these emails are relevant to website updates

III. What is 60/40 Time?

There are many reasons why people volunteer.  Here is a short list that comes from Molly Schar’s article Making the Most of Nonprofit Volunteers:
  • Belief in the mission of the charity
  • Desire to “give back”
  • Meet new people
  • Make new business contacts
  • Invited or inspired by another volunteer or staff member
  • Improve resume
  • Learn new skills
  • Benefits such as free events
We want all of our volunteers to get the most out of their experience here. Rather than insisting that every moment of a volunteer’s time be spent on completing tasks on the wall, we ask you to split your time 60/40. We want to give our volunteers freedom to spend a large portion of time doing things that satisfy their motivations while still providing value to the organization. For example, if someone has an interest in building skills in using social media, but there aren’t currently any tasks on the wall related to social media. The volunteer would be encouraged to use 40% of their time using social media to benefit the charity. The remaining 60% of the time is essential for delivering other important results to the organization. We aspire to having a trusting environment, so it is up to you to monitor how you’re spending your time. During progress updates, all volunteers are encouraged to share what they’ve accomplished during their 40% time. This will help other volunteers to learn what motivates their teammates and will give the team information that can be integrated into future Cycle Plans.
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