Shop floor to Appledore

Like many, I’m sure, I was chilled by the evil villain of the recent Sherlock series, Charles Augustus Magnussen (a performance of extraordinary menace by Lars Mikkelson). But also (and again, like many) was intrigued by Magnussen’s house - the futuristic but entirely appropriate super-villain secret headquarters (though why do evil mastermind secret headquarters always look like evil mastermind secret headquarters? Surely an inconsistency there…).

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Happy High Status: on meeting a hero

After Jonathan Leathwood’s outstanding debut at London’s Wigmore Hall earlier this week, I was lucky enough to meet a hero — the guitarist Julian Bream, one of the great figures in the rebirth of the guitar as an instrument taken seriously in the world of classical music.

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You can’t do it like that!

“You can’t do it like that!”

“Why not?”

“We agreed at the beginning of the release that you would do it like this

“Ah, but doing it like this makes no sense now.”

“Look, in the meeting minutes. You agreed!”

“So? We’ve learned a lot since then…”

“But you can’t do it like that!”

Bureaucracy hates self-organisation.

(I’m pleased to say that this little exchange was inspired by a happy experience of a team deciding that they could do it like that)

Complexity - the new Behaviourism?

Thinking on organisational change comes in two varieties. On the one hand, there’s a body of work and practice that focusses on deep group and individual reflection, on the questioning of assumptions and identities, that I’ll characterise as analytical, as it’s mode of operation, and the positions taken and strategies followed by its practitioners, stem directly from the world of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. On the other, a set of concepts and interventions that grow out of both the behaviourist psychology of the mid- 20th century, bolstered (though I’m sure those holding these current ideas would be loth to admit it) by more recent developments in systems thinking and complexity science, which I’ll name behaviourist (acknowledging that this is not the whole story by any means, but for now it serves my — admittedly oppositional — purposes).

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Jazz, Agility, Innovation

I was intrigued when I heard about Adrian Cho’s book The Jazz Process: Collaboration, Innovation and Agility. Over the years I’ve enjoyed working on development projects with many, many colleagues who’ve astonished me with their musical intelligence and experience — as players of all sorts of music, composers, or simply with extraordinary deep knowledge. Late night talks with friends and fellow developers in the pub, at meet-ups and conferences, makes it clear that this is a widely accepted phenomenon. So when an active jazz musician who’s also a senior development manager at IBM writes a book on the subject, maybe — just maybe — there’ll be some useful insights, particularly about collaboration and innovation in a large organisation.

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On coaching and being coached #acguk

As last year, the UK Agile Coaches Gathering was both a great community-builder, and a total ideas-fest. In particular, Tobias Mayer (Presentation is not Facilitation) helped reinforce the poverty of presentation as a training technique, and Petra Skapa’s question about what we can learn from other coaching disciplines elicited some great stories about experiences of coaching and being coached.
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Notes from Improv for Agile Coaches #acguk

The improv day for agile coaches was a blast - many thanks to all who came, and special thanks to Tom Salinsky for inspiring teaching, and Mike Sutton for helping organise the day.

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The Scrum Picture is Wrong (#scrumgathering)

Blogging from the Munich Scrum Gathering, so here’s a rare Scrum-focussed blog, though (of course) there’s a lot here that parallels other thinking in the Agile and Lean world. The Scrum Picture is Wrong: well, not wrong, but incomplete. Misleadingly, dangerously incomplete. It’s easier to say it’s just wrong, and this is why.
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Constructive Conversations About Development Process

What sort of conversations can you have with your organisation about software development practice and process? By which I mean not only – what do you talk about – but just as importantly, what do you bring to the conversation that affects how you frame the discussion, and how do you improve its chances of creating lasting change?
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Dilbert considered harmful? (#acguk)

I ran this conversation as a session at the UK Agile Coaches Gathering last week. It was prompted by the common experience of seeing Dilbert cartoons stuck to office walls and partitions. Here’s one of my favourites — as usual, it rings true, and the drawing, writing and setting are spot-on[1]. But wait - did Dilbert just lie to the manager? Is it OK to do that? Maybe it is, and maybe we make ourselves feel superior to the pointy-hairs by doing it.

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