Sunday, July 18, 2010

Freedom and Responsibility

Now I wanted to start talking explicitly about freedom and responsibility. The twins.

For most normal people, freedom and responsibility come together. That is, we are only free when we accept responsibility. This may seem a paradox, like saying, "we are only free when we become a slave." But it is not.

So, if we are free we must take the responsibility to decide and act. In the team, for example.

And we must take the responsibility to explain this to managers. "Leave us alone until the end of the Sprint" is a phrase we must be adult enough to repeat often. (And forgiving enough to be willing to repeat again and again.)

Now, managers, contrary to what you were typically taught, God gave them freedom and you have no right to abrogate it.

In a relationship, no decent person wishes to be loved by a slave. One wishes the love, each day, to be truly given. Not required.

In a roughly similar way, in work the magic of the team operates at a higher level when they are free to give what they want, what magically comes to their heads. In the team soup.

Now, this is not foolishness. If the Team goes for a good while and comes up with nothing much, a manger might need to add something to the soup. But she is looking to add a simple constraint or an idea that will juice the team to freer creativity. Not to put an iron box around them to make them work hard.

So, let me repeat a few key ideas:
1. Workers are, by and large, worthy of freedom and responsibility.
2. Managers should be ashamed to assume, tacitly or explicitly, that workers have, even for one moment, given up any freedom.
3. Both managers and workers are human and make mistakes.
4. Neither managers nor workers, in general, are evil. (Yes, there are many managers who are poorly taught in the arts of managing. Yes, there are a few evil managers; but all managers do not deserve to be blamed because of the faults of a few.)

Very good people often misunderstand these ideas, when they try to put them into action. We saw this in what is now called the Place de la Concorde, with the guillotine. It is for us to forgive them, forgive ourselves, and remind.

Thank You!

I am back now from a visit to Lima, Peru. And from New York, and Newark, and Saratoga Springs.

Freud said that life is about Arbeitung und Lieben. Work and Love. And, to me anyway, these words have started to intermingle. I love my work, and I work to express my love.

At the deep level, I think we first wish that those we love know that we have tried to express our love for them. And of course, we never express this well, or just as each person would want. But we want each person to know that we *tried*, in our actions or words, to express it as well as we could to him or her. And particularly, of course, those that we care about most.

So, this is what I want to say today. Thank you!

Thank you to my family for putting up with my travels. And me.
Thank you to my friends (you know who you are) for helping me. It is my wish that you know how grateful I am.
Thank you to my course attendees and my clients for letting me do the work that I love so much. And, I hope, for being a small part of your life getting better. And increasing your ability to make others' lives better. This is to me a great satisfaction.

So, this also an admission of partial failure. None of you can know how much more I would have wished to express that well of water (as I will call it) that has been given me. There is so much more there, and I know how poorly it has been expressed.

And I know that what I have expressed or done has, oft times, fallen on deaf or partially deaf ears. It was not the right time, or the right phrasing, or it was too physical, or too dramatically stated, or too abstractly stated. It was said in metaphors that fit my culture or my nature, but not that fit your culture or your nature. Or was too quietly stated.

Each of us wants and needs things to be expressed or done in just a certain way and in just a certain time. And I know, too well, that I am not always able to do that. It is a sadness to me, that my actions or words could not have been more just what you needed. But a sadness that is just part of being human. I can accept it well. But today I do feel it.

But again I say, more happily: Thank you!

One can say it as: Muchas gracias! Merci beaucoup! Vielen Dank! Mille grazie! But in my own mother tongue it is: Thank you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

First, a word about happiness. I am sure I don't know everything about happiness, but I am still quite sure it is important. Mr. Jefferson included, in his draft, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". And Jeff Sutherland says "if they aren't having fun [with Scrum], they aren't doing it right."

Serious fun, fun that comes mainly from work. But still fun.

Umm. I think there may still be some of us who feel that things are good only when we are in pain. I guess if that is fun for you, go for it, as long as you don't hurt anyone else. Anyway, do not put me in the camp of ascetics or stoics. Pleasure, if done right, can lead to creativity.

But the main subject is freedom! Freedom! What a great word. The second greatest word in the English language.

This is the day on which we celebrate the Declaration of Independence. A declaration for freedom. "We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men a created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What glorious ringing words.

And still we are not free. In ways big and small, others try to enslave us. In ways big and small, we enslave ourselves. As Rousseau said: "Man is born free and everywhere is in chains."

Managers: Never, never, never, never enslave your associates. They do not belong to you. You did not create them. Even if they ask you to, do not abrogate their freedom. God gave them freedom for many mystical reasons, the source and meaning of which you haven't the least idea. You are a manager to help them fulfill their lives, not to take their freedom away.

Let me be yet more honest. You have been taught, and it is in the bones of most of you, to enslave your associates. I, as one, do not blame you; you have been taught badly and you are human (imperfect). I too have committed these sins. But do not be complacent with your imperfections. Try hard to stop doing it.

Workers: Never, even for a second, give up your freedom. You freedom of action, of speech, of association. Your freedom to be yourself. You never said "I agree to be a slave to this firm or this manager." Don't do it. In fact, most managers can feel in their bones the sin of abrogating your freedom; do not let them sin more.

Yes, you do not have to tell me all the temptations you face to give away your freedom. On some days, it seems a good trade, and it seems that we might pawn it and get it back later. It is hard. But having fun is hard too. You, your freedom are worth the pain of this hard passage.

[Yes, of course, there are certain social constructs that limit our freedom. We don't yell "fire" in a crowded room, etc, etc. It is a complicated subject. So, study it!]

So, how does Scrum instantiate freedom. Well, one way is that each person reports for himself or herself in the Daily stand-up. One way is that the Team gets to choose how many Product Backlog Items to commit to in the Sprint Planning Meeting.

More broadly, in Scrum we accept (well, more) that a person brings everything he or she is to a Team. And thus has much more to offer a team (yes, and, well, maybe a bit more to deal with too). We are free(er) to be who we really are.

Immediately after mentioning freedom, we must also mention responsibility. If you are free, you are also responsible for yourself. This is a great lesson of life. Mysterious, just as God gives us responsibility for ourselves, he also makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the wicked and the good. Consider the lilies of the field, we might say. In a free economy, much is magically provided for us. Still, we must work, we must learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We must learn that we must still get along, in business, with even quite disagreeable people (the simple version of "love your enemies").

How does this work in Scrum? So, in Scrum, the team at the end of the Sprint Planning Meeting commits to 8 or 12 or 15 Product Backlog Items. They become responsible for delivering those by the end of the Sprint. They are free to do it anyway they want, but they have committed to deliver. They are responsible.

"That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it..." Yes, and this is the slow, painful path we are on in abolishing Waterfall and all its associated bad thinking. We have this right. We have this duty even. We must fix it. May it be that the lean-agile-scrum with which we wish to replace waterfall are worthy successors and worthily practiced by the players.

So, on this beautiful day (and are not they all beautiful) send not to know for whom the bells toll. The bells of freedom toll for you. The fireworks of freedom are lit for you. Whether you are in Demorest, GA, or Ottawa, or Bangalore, or Paris, or Amsterdam, or South Africa, or Lima. No man is an island, because each of us is involved in mankind.

Friday, July 2, 2010

An Intro to Business Value Engineering

On June 30th, while I was in Montreal giving a CSM Course, I also joined the Scrum User Group and gave a new, somewhat different, presentation on BV Engineering. They seemed to like it more, so maybe I am making the points in a somewhat more practical, concrete way.

Here is the link to the PDF: