Friday, 28 December 2012

When two worlds collide - Systemic Practice meets Agile

In interviews, I often describe Software Development as being:

People + Process + Product

Although I'm passionate about all three, I think the People component is the most important, but hardest to get right. My wife is currently studying Systemic Practice, in the context of Family Therapy. In our frequent discussions about each other's work, I'm finding significant overlap between Systemic Practice and growing great software teams.

Systemic Practice seeks constructive improvement, through bringing out, sharing and respecting the views and stories of all involved. Although this approach has a strong connection to Family Therapy, it can also be applied to any group of people. For more details, visit the Association for Family Therapy site or the Systemic Practice Index.

A Crisp team article recently made a similar connection in applying what my wife calls the miracle question, to Agile Retrospectives:

If you had a magic wand / could perform a miracle, what would your new future be like?

The key with this approach is to focus on a more positive future, and the steps to reach it, instead of spending time wallowing in ones current problems. A couple of the teams I work with tried this "positive thinking" method in recent retrospectives, and found it very, well, positive! It gave a much greater focus on the end-improvement, and the actions required to get there. Time will tell if the goals are actually reached, but I have every confidence.

Another Family Therapy technique I've often found useful is the use of curiosity to subversively cause change. If you'd like a person/team to adopt a new behaviour, then instead of asking them directly, or (even worse) telling them to, try this approach: take a neutral stance on their behaviour, but just think out loud:

I wonder what would happen if you tried <describe desired behaviour>.

Then wait for their response, without pushing or pressurising them for agreement. You may not get a positive response, or even any response at all, but given time and the right conditions, they may mull it over and their own curiosity will make them think this through. The result is often them picturing their change in behaviour and foreseeing some benefits, which they then voice themselves and buy into more readily than if you'd forced the change on them. This is because they are now the originator and owner of the change.

I've described just a couple of Systemic Practice techniques that can be applied to Software Teams. I'm sure there are many more, so I'll blog about new ones as I find them. I'd also love to hear from other  Agile Coaches or Teams applying Systemic Practice, so we can share our experiences of what works (and what doesn't!).

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The chosen mo - A la Souvarov

Apologies that this is several days after the event, but as promised, I have finally shaved to a style: the A la Souvarov. Many thanks to all that have donated so far - please keep your donations coming!

Lyndsay's a la Souvarov

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Mo-money - donate to choose my mo

It's day 10 of Mo-vember for Mumbai! Both facial hair and donations (£428) are growing well, though my face is pretty itchy now.

My beard is finally at a sculpt-able length, so the question is which mo' style do I choose? I've narrowed it down to those highlighted in red below.
Expanded facial hair types - which should I choose
Which style is for me? (taken from here)

But the final decision is yours! On the morning of Wednesday 14th November 2012, I'll shave to whichever of the highlighted styles has received most donations for via my justgiving page. So please donate generously and remember to state which style you're donating for!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Mo-vember 2012 - 5 days in

Today's key facts about my new rough looks are:

  • Raised £348 so far - woo hoo!
  • Chins are feeling itchy, as evident by Dave and Lyndsay's growth below!
I'm planning on enjoying the novelty of having facial hair for another couple more days before shaving it into something more 'tache like.

Feel free to donate soon via our Just Giving page!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mo-vember - I'm getting hairy

Last year I had the privilege of seeing, first-hand, the amazing work Oasis is doing in Mumbai.

One of the projects we were particularly struck by was an orphanage in the district of Thane. We spent a day visiting the home and Tim led a drama workshop for the eight boys that live there. These orphans were found on the streets of Mumbai and placed into the care of Oasis. Some have a terminal condition, others have disabilities. You don't see this when you meet them though. They are bubbly, enthusiastic and keen to share. They go to school, play sport and have the same dreams and aspirations as most 6-13 year boys.

Oasis has provided them with a secure, stable, family environment. They are cared for by two house parents, who also have toddler themselves. It's hard to verbalise what a difference this home makes to them. If you have children yourselves, then picture them loosing you at the age of 2-3, and them having to grow up on the streets. This is a daily occurrence in Mumbai, but through the work of Oasis, these eight boys have been given the chance of a future and some hope.

Tim with the boys at their home

As part of our response to our visit, we're taking part in Mo-vember. Graham, Dave, Tim and I will be remaining unshaven for the month of November to raise funds to help Oasis continue its great work at the orphanage.

I'll be posting facial hair updates through out the month. Please give generously via our just-giving page. Spare a thought also for our lovely wives who normally object to such manly growth!

Tim, Graham, Dave and myself cleanly shaven in October

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Are you smart and can you get things done?

If you answer yes to both the above, and you've been writing fantastic web applications in Java or C# for the last 3 years, then please get in touch. I'm looking for exceptionally talented software developers (and testers) to join my agile team (in Basingstoke, UK).

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Communities connected to ...

What communities are you in and who/what are they connected to?

This question came up at a recent meeting I attended of the COGS Vision Team. We were discussing how the church positively impacts it's communities, and draws people to Christ.

If you're not a Christian and you're reading this, you may be wondering why this post is on my blog and what relevance it has to you?

The answer is that regardless of what we believe, each of us is (unless you are a hermit) is connected to other people through the communities (online and offline) that we participate in. Be it a book-club, a tennis-club, a Google+ stream or a go-club (or even, dare I suggest it, a church), our communities consist of a variety people who meet together on a regular basis, and some of those people may be Christians. You yourself may not share their belief, but this won't alter the fact that you may have a Christian praying for you, and (if God exists - a big if, I know) their prayers may be having a positive impact on your life.

If you're a Christian reading this, you may now be wondering what this has to do with church?

The answer is that church is not just a meeting that happens on a Sunday (and may well be unintelligible to some), but (especially around the beginnings of Christianity) is something that exists where two or more Christians meet in community.

What I've observed of Christianity so far is that whilst the Sunday service has a purpose and a place, the church best impacts the world and stimulates growth when Christians regularly meet with and serve others in their local communities. Hence communities connected to Christ.

Such communities are characterised by:

  • being a mixture of Christians and non-Christians (with generally more of the latter).
  • meeting regularly (at least monthly), preferably in a neutral location.
  • meeting with a common purpose that benefits the whole community (not just either sub-group identified early).
  • allowing and involving the sharing of each members views on life, the universe and everything.
So whether or not you're a Christian reading this, the question still stands: what communities are you in, and who/what are they connected to?