Category Archives: Blogs

Hired for skills, put on a PIP for attitude


Lots of times in many different organisations I have heard leaders mention the now infamous phrase “Hire for attitude, train for skill” made popular by articles on the subject in the Harvard Business Review.

It’s a great thing to aim for but my suspicion in recent years is that we fail to understand what is actually required when we make statements that we prioritise someone’s attitude and potential over current skill set and experience.

We must consider our;

  • engagement with candidates during the recruitment process
  • activities carried out during the recruitment process
  • on-boarding processes
  • management training in people development
  • policies on learning (on the job, learning time, courses, mentoring, platforms)
  • objective setting and measurement
  • appraisal processes

Seems like a lot of work and it is, it’s perhaps for this reason why we just don’t seem to bother making the required changes.

Three times in the last three years I have been in the fortunate enough position that I could hire a new member into my team.  Three different companies in three different industries, sadly the same result.

Given the mixture of skills, experiences and personalities in my teams I was looking for someone with a hunger to learn, a desire to join a new team and grow and also challenge how things were done. Each and every time I did this my management had the same concerns.

”This might be your only hire this year, why waste it, get the best, most experienced person you can”

Best and most experienced person typically means the person who’s recent experience aligns with the companies industry, role description or at its worst the exact skill and skill level your project needs.

This seems to be happening due to how the managers above me are measuring progress and how they are being measured.  To have budget allocated for a new developer, say up to £60,000, why on earth would we hire someone for £40,000.  We have work that needs doing and the more expensive more experienced person would get that work done more quickly and efficiently.   My concern isn’t for the strength, morale and long term prosperity of the team and wider business, it’s for the success or failure of the current change, current feature, current business case.

I’ve worked with some fantastic development partners and here too we see tension when less experienced people join the team, they are seen as a drain and a wasted expense.  Whilst commercials can be changed in that scenario it doesn’t change the attitude towards the more junior team member and the potential lack of time and support the rest of the team are able to give them.

And what about the really experienced team member who we do hire for £60,000? That person who has worked in that sector before, who knows your technology better than the vendor who created it? Turns out they are arrogant, unhelpful and aggressive and have decimated team morale.  We have realised that we don’t really know how we measure productivity or team happiness and so now after hiring a new team and spending our budget the work still isn’t getting done any faster or at higher quality levels?

Hiring people is a tricky business and must be given the respect it deserves. The recruitment “process”, all the contact you have with candidates, the on-boarding process and the probation period are all a two way street.  You, the company and the employee must decide if it’s a healthy and rewarding partnership.  The responsibility has to be on the company here, make clear the values of the business, how the candidate will be supported and developed once joining.

In my experience very few people have such high levels of drive, objectivity and self awareness that they will spot within 13 weeks that this company isn’t a good fit.  So that means if its isn’t quite right we fall into the often subjective place of the PIP (Performance improvement plan) and the probation extension.   This is a stressful and arduous place for the employee and manager as both are often unprepared.

The mandate from a subjective set of opinions is often “exit them from the business” which leaves little room for sentiment or emotion.   Don’t forget we are dealing with people and in the main people come to work to do a good job, meaningful and valuable work, they don’t want to be on a PIP any more than you want to be creating one.

Like a sprint, the PIP process should have a retro regardless of the outcome. We shouldn’t be relieved whether the employee goes or stays with the company.  A PIP is a failure often in the recruitment and on boarding approach.  Both parties failed to align on values and objectives or there was something deeper and personal that we could have supported had we taken more time with the person.  We must learn from that.  Changing jobs and companies is a huge emotional wrench for most people and so we have a duty of care to support candidates in making the right choice.

A number of times I have had people remove themselves from the recruitment process and even (after further conversations) tear up a signed contract before joining. Whilst not ideal it has to be more positive than that person ending up on a PIP 13 weeks into their probation period.   In that position most will cling on as looking for another move when in that emotional situation is much more difficult. Keeping things positive and constructive when in interviews is so tough when with your current company you are on the dreaded PIP.

If we end up with team members in this situation we must strive to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  When faced with this in the past the two things I could influence were helping my team member find a role in a different company and ensuring the recruitment process was changed.

Just like we aim for finding bugs as early as possible we should aim to discover whether someone’s values and attitude align with the business as early as possible i.e. before they even click apply, your company marketing has a role to play in this, content and tone of voice and values that are out in the ether.

 The cost in hiring someone with the wrong attitude or values is huge.

Don’t just see recruitment as a process, a positon to be filled, a task to be completed. Give it the time and care it needs and focus on people and values.  Make it clear how success is measured and how people will be helped and supported.    We spend most of our time at work and we need a good mix of skills, personalities, interests and experiences.  It’s a team game.  So if your team is hiring, get involved and keep interviews practical and human.

I’m not knocking everyone, there are some amazing places to work out there, some really supportive and fun places to work, I’ve worked in quite a few. If any of the above resonates with you then make a change, improve how you attract and recruit new people into your teams.

Good luck.

See also:

Leading and lagging – take the weight off your feet

When speaking at conferences over the last few years I have always leant on weight loss as an example to emphasise the difference between leading and lagging indicators. To show how weight loss, the lagging indicator cannot be used in isolation to achieve ones goals. Getting on the scales at the end of the week to review our weight may or may not end positively and its actually about leading indicators such as diet and exercise that will ‘lead’ to achieve the lagging measures of success.

With that in mind imagine my shock when after a festive season filled with mince pies, cakes, caramel hot chocolates and lots of sitting down I discovered I was 11 stone. The heaviest I had been ‘since records began’. The heaviest I had been in my life. 11 stone felt like a lot for someone 5ft 5.5 inches (the .5 is important) and nearing 40.

More importantly it was how I felt, slow and unfit, heavy and not happy walking around in just my pants, which is an ancient past time of the Leach clan. So something had to be done. Like a lot of people in early January my instinct was to join the gym or buy lots of exercise equipment. Sadly I have previous for this.

So I decided to think through what I had been banging on about at the conferences. Using data to set goals, defining outcomes, creating something which is sustainable, using leading and lagging indicators.

I would start with doing some research into ways to lose weight and common approaches and methods, one of my heroes Mark Ridley practices fasting so this was also an area of interest.

My plan led me to 3 logical steps:

1. Reduce calorie intake – going from lots of cakes to no cakes would be bad. More generally slightly decreasing meal sizes

2. Cut down drastically on sugar – I have a very sweet tooth so this would be no mean feat

3. Start exercising more than not exercising at all

4. Needed a fourth step for actually sticking to it, discipline and intestinal fortitude are not strong traits in me, so would need some work .

My research led me to a decision to set myself 3 goals all of which would be timeboxed to 4 weeks and undertaken in order to give focus and to ensure there wasn’t too many variables in my experiment 😉

Goal 1

Drop calorie intake by 50%, Online tools helped me understand that I needed about 2000 calories, however I was currently at nearly double that. Crisps had become the norm at lunch, I had 4-5 cups of tea with 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar. A sugary dessert after dinner has also become mandatory. Plus breakfast was typically jam or peanut butter on toast.

So I set about cutting down, as I mentioned things need to be sustainable. It’s my belief that drastic changes are not sustainable so fad diets that make you unhappy will not be stuck to.

So day on day I cut back. No jam on the toast. Deserts every other day and 2 cups of tea not 4-5. Swapping the bag of crisps for a banana (this one hurt the most) damn fruit, my natural enemy.

It was working though, even after a few weeks I had lost a few pounds so those lagging indicators were giving me confidence that my leading indicators (behavioural) were correct.

I reached the end of month one and had lost half a stone (7lbs or 3kgs). I felt better and in other stages of my life this would be where I would stop. This time was different. I wanted to explore goals 2 and 3.

Goal 2

Cut down drastically on sugar. This one would ensure me and my best friend, my go to guy ‘the cup of tea’ would either part ways or have a very different relationship. I wanted to experiment with less sugar (manky) or different tea bags (weird). After 2 weeks of experimenting I actually settled on coffee. Working in central London I am spoilt for choice with coffee shops and ground coffee sourced from all over the world.

I always knew I liked coffee but now I absolutely love it. Often black and always without sugar. I had said goodbye to Tea and bye for now to jam, peanut butter and caramel.

So I’m lighter, happier, eating smaller portions and consuming far less sugar.

Goal 3

Burning calories of course, this puzzled me though as how to approach it, as I’ve joined a gym twice before and never stuck to it, swimming more than a few lengths makes me feel sick, running long distances makes my knees feel sick and exercise classes are just weird. Being nearly 40 and stood at the back of a room full of girls in short shorts makes me feel bad.

So I googled something far more masculine and something I now enjoyed watching, Boxing. I am lucky there is a boxing training class camply named ‘Boxercise’ based just a few miles down the road. I anxiously signed up and went along for the first class. It nearly killed me but was so much fun.

What I have discovered is that when you are padded and sparring with a partner you need to focus, need concentration and need to put 100% effort in else you impact the level of workout that the other person gets. Getting the motivation for weeks 2 and 3 was difficult but I’m now 15 sessions in and loving it.


My goals for the 3 months had been met:

Reduce calories, cut down sugar (related to goal 1 but specific), start and maintain exercise. Whilst I have been on the scales on and off, those lagging indicators were going to be slightly irrelevant as I was confident in the leading indicators and had met or exceeded them.

My daily calorie intake was now 2000-2200 which was balanced against the weekly boxing class and average daily steps of 8,000, I was enjoying coffee without sugar and really enjoying the occasional chocolate brownie. When you have treats less often they really do taste amazing. The nut and chocolate brownie from the Kiosk in Kings cross station is amazing.

As of July 2018 I had dropped the lagging indicator of weight from 11stone (69kgs) to 9 stone 9lbs (62kgs). My previous weight actually had me at a BMI of 25.4 (not good) now I’m down to a happier 22.

Whilst this is all very positive and I feel more comfortable walking around in my pants it does question what next. I’m happier, fitter and thinner. I’m exercising regularly and enjoying what I eat. Maybe my goal is one of sustainability now.

The other thing I haven’t mentioned again is that of fasting. As part of the calorie reduction once I had cut out Jam on toast for breakfast and cut down the size of my dinner and cut out regular afters I then decided the conditions were right to introduce intermittent fasting.

Eating for 6 hours a day only. This by now wasn’t a difficult thing to cut out breakfast and just enjoy lunch and dinner. Avoiding beer after 7pm and milk in coffee before lunch were the only hardships.

The most important thing for me was that all this felt sustainable. My annoying craving for sugar before bed and something at 11am between breakfast and lunch were now a thing of the past.

My body feels stronger and I liked myself again.

I had lived the theory, set goals, used leading and lagging indicators, used data and research to drive decision making. Life is good.

FACT hunt:

I lost 17lbs in 20 weeks

My BMI went from 25+ (overweight) to 22 (middle of healthy)

I love coffee and chocolate brownies more than ever

My love for freshly cooked bread has increased

I was never going to give up or reduce my intake of wheat as i wouldnt have stuck to anything else (I love wheat beers and bread)

Most of my jeans no longer fit

I now consume far less sugar – 2 1kg bags per month less.

There is no picture of me holding out small trousers

I do actually have some discipline

I lost 2 inches off my waistline and am now happier in shorts

Suns out guns out

Respecting time – trains, school bells and meeting etiquette

wedgies Google Search

It was a rainy Thursday morning and again, despite my good intentions, I found myself leaving the house with only minutes to spare before the train pulled in.  As I dashed down the road, I could hear the train approaching.  A glance at my overpriced Apple watch suggested I still had 90 seconds.  I got to the station and straddled my way down the many steps, just as the doors closed and the train pulled away.  “Damn and blast!” I thought to myself, whilst trying to style out the fact I had just run all the way from my house, some 6oo yards away.

Whilst waiting for the next train and gathering my breath, well, trying to stop gasping for air actually (it’s been many years and several pastries since I last did any strenuous exercise), I pondered my frustration about the train doors closing “early”.  If you read the website terms and conditions (which I did), the facts state that the timetabled time is the time that train leaves the station.  Several activities take place before this time including all doors being shut, the platform checked, signals checked and controls activated in the drivers cab.

So by rights the train doors should beep 30 seconds before the stated time of the train, remembering that the stated time is the time the train should depart, not the time it arrives.  I think we have fallen victim to the trains being constantly late.

I then started to consider this behaviour within schools and our workplaces.  When we were at school, the times stated on the timetable were the times the lesson started, similarly when at work we state the start of the meeting time.

However, when at school, someone else takes on the responsibility of ringing a bell 5 minutes before the start of the next lesson, giving us ample time (in theory at least, not taking into account trips and wedgies on the way) to wander to the next lesson so that we started on  time.  Do we ring any bells when at work?  We have all at some time or another discussed meeting etiquette and how we should arrange meetings with a clear agenda, that start on time, set clear actions with clear minutes and end on time.

How often in reality have we spent all day apologising for being late rather than apologising for leaving 5 minutes before the end of the current meeting to avoid being late for the next?  It’s not rude, its ensuring we offer courtesy to each and every meeting we have accepted.  Remember, if meetings are arranged where you are not clear what the agenda is or why you are needed, ask.  Your time and the time of others is precious, don’t waste it.

P.s. I’m a fan of meetings, for me they are not something to be mocked, rather to be valued, they are opportunities to collaborate with our amazing peers, so respect that time and respect your peers, ensure there is an agenda and make sure you adhere to the timebox.

Remember, it’s OK for meetings to deliver value early.

All it takes is a little initiative


In recent roles I have been much more focused on ensuring the people around me understand the agile values and principles and the benefits they can bring to enjoyment and fulfilment at work.


Agile leads us to talk alot more about the importance of mindset and the belief that if you hire for attitude and train for skill but can you hire for skill and train attitude?


I have had a couple of team members and peers recently whos attitude and behaviour has been brought into question.  When speaking with them many techniques are used with the core objective to bring a sense of self awareness.  Why are they behaving in a particular way and did they realise the negative impact on others.


Whilst on most occasions this has seen an improvement in behaviour, in the short term at least, we encountered another issue of questionable initiative.  Initiative? Where did that come from? Did we test for that in interview? What does it even mean?


We talk about creativity and curiosity which when coupled with initiative are extremely powerful but what affects people’s ability to be perceived as having and using initiative?


I started to realise that there is something much deeper going on.  Whilst we can claim that some people just simply lack initiative our upbringing, society and work culture do have a direct impact on how much we are encouraged to use these important attributes.


If we have tight boundaries as we grow up and are not encouraged to try new things and gain some independence then this can have an impact, in society a shift towards a “blame” culture, deferring responsibility and becoming extremely risk averse.  In work how much autonomy are we actually afforded to explore new things?

If we are in an environment where instructions are given top down and output is templated and constrained then how can we complain when in given situations individuals do not use initiative? Those full of creativity, curiosity and initiative may have already moved on to find a more suitable environment.
So when you are in a situation where you are questioning someone’s apparent lack of initiative think about how you can help them, understand what might be impacting their ability to use it and encourage them to be more self aware.  You might also want to think about how initiative can be given freedom to show itself within group scenarios when interviewing potential new employees.

But the Scrum book says no Business Analysts…..


5 years ago I planted a seed, an Agile Scrum seed at the company where I worked. It took a year to germinate and I actually left the company during that time. I was lucky enough to rejoin to take up the role of a Scrum Master.

The role I left behind was that of a Business Analyst. Like many others I have read all the recommended Agile and Scrum books. They do not speak of the BA role. It becomes very simple, become the PO, become a developer, move into commercial analysis or go to a company not doing agile or doing agile ‘wrong’.

I had the gut feeling that the BA team I so proudly managed would not be required in the new world, I’ve never written this down before and I regret not sharing this view with my team. I protected myself from this fate and moved to another company as a BA whilst I pondered my viewpoint and whether I could leave the profession behind.

8months later I took the decision that the time was right and the opportunity was available to move into Scrum Mastery, I didn’t fancy Product Ownership at that point as I wanted to be able to influence a change in the approach to ‘how’ the work was done not the ‘why’, ‘what’ or ‘when’.

When I returned, my old team had indeed moved out of the new ‘Scrum’ feature teams mostly because they were either seen as ‘waste’ or as a frustrated ‘proxy PO’.  They sat all together away from the teams, making up business cases for upcoming work.  In hindsight it was almost a necessary growing pain for the whole company. We questioned the value of the role, it evolved into product insight and commercial and financial analysis and they are in a really strong position now as a collective analytics, BI and data science team(s).

The standard role of a BA (interface between the business and IT) is too simplistic and means most agile teams fail to document new/changed logic for the future to make, in particular, operational support easier, to make change in that same area easier and cheaper in the future. To consider not only technical (non functional) but also customer facing considerations.

Agile encourages the T shape of skills and embrace exactly that, ‘skills’. Whilst we may question having one person sitting in the BA position, as we sometimes do with QA or SM. We still need the skills that the role normally brings.  We must train the team with those skills even if we make the roles non mandatory. Maybe we should all take the view that we should work to make ourselves redundant, share all our skills and automate as much as we can.

Besides there is always something more interesting to work on 🙂

work to make ourselves redundant, share all our skills and automate as much as we can.

So, fast forward to the present, I have a Scrum team with a BA and a PO, what’s that all about? I no longer see it as an obvious problem but I would advise you to review the team, the skills in that team and the context of the work they are doing. My view now is that you need either role or both roles and occasionally neither.

As businesses ‘go agile’ and they add POs and SMs and if you retain BAs, you will notice that the cost of teams stays quite high, I recently read that on average a traditional Scrum team costs £1million per year.  That’s a lot of revenue they need to generate. Thus the risk is quite high.

So why not start with the problem being solved/the objective being set and review the skills you think you need. Build up those skills as required, add people to the team as required. Start everything like a startup, review the potential value in solving the problem or doing the work and be strict on who you need involved. Its really simple, time invested = cost and we must generate more value than the cost.

Inspired by lean we should move the people to the work, so don’t just assign random features and projects to existing scrum teams, question who is best suited to achieve the goal.

It’s harder to manage but will be a better investment for the business as a whole and should hopefully encourage more learning in your teams, higher engagement and better products, always hopefully leading to happier customers.

we should move the people to the work, so don’t just assign random features and projects to existing scrum teams

We are all valuable and teams need a mix of skills, the lesson here is to be very honest about what skills we need, look to train skills within teams and recruit people eager to learn.

We need to move away from the days whereby to start more work we need a new team and that team by default needed 8-10 people. £1million is a lot of money, invest wisely.


No more Scrum Masters


[Context: Sat in a meeting room reviewing Scrum Master CVs and interview performance…..]

I’m in the lucky position to be part of a company looking to digitise it’s customer facing and internal systems and processes, striving for better customer satisfaction and efficiency. We have new backers and money to spend and growing a team of talented people.

We are though hitting a lot of the common challenges when working in and around Agile teams.  The need for a clearer strategy, linking metrics to the features being delivered and understanding the best way to measure improving team performance.

As part of hiring for a Scrum Master we had the age old debate as to why we need a Scrum Master, it became obvious that those around the teams had done a good job at creating the perception that the teams were working well.  However when talking to the teams themselves there remains a number of areas for improvement that the teams need support with.

The complication with Scrum Masters is that typically they command a fairly high salary and often do not add direct tangible value to the software solution.

There are many statements that are banded around that can confuse senior leaders, a Scrum master is there to make themselves redundant, a Scrum Masters success is a reflection of the teams. But what is a ScrumMaster? for most we do not need to defend this too strongly as Scrum Masters come out of the box with Scrum and i’ve been lucky enough that previous Directors understood the value of the role.

Change agents, leaders, mindset enablers and other such visionary statements.  However we live in a world where its hard to think long term, we want results today or we might not be in business tomorrow.

I hire only people with Agile experience, so why do I need a ScrumMaster to teach them what they already know?

I’ve lucky enough to have moved through all roles within the software development lifecycle and most recently floated in and out of IT and Business teams and from Scrum Master to Coach to Product Owner.

As a Scrum Master my role was to remove blockers for my team and ensure we delivered. However my own interests (Agile, lean, management3.0, strategy) meant that slowly over time i moved away from the team.  It’s human nature for people to be career driven and for budding Scrum Masters this will often mean Seniority and Agile Coaching.

This move from the specifics of the work into the focus on the process and happiness of the team leaves you terribly exposed, if senior leadership do not value the role then, in more difficult circumstances, it leaves you in a difficult position to justify the cost of you.

So……should we hire a ScrumMaster?. I think you really have to question the objectives for the role to ensure you get the right person. In our case we do not simply want someone to facilitate the process, we need our teams focused on some very strict delivery deadlines, someone technically minded who can work between teams and systems. Isn’t that the role of a senior engineer i hear you say? well there are multiple ways to solve every issue and multiple ways to deploy your headcount, this is just our current thinking.

We think we might be looking for a Delivery Manager (popularised by Government Digital Service), i’m even reconsidering my view that that person cannot be the line manager of the team. We need to try and detach personal development through delivering solutions, versus learning and improving skills versus career planning. You can get these from multiple people, its just a case of having the right networks and time permitted for it to be of use.

So that’s decided, no more Scrum Masters for us? maybe, I’m not even certain we should be using Scrum as the outcome we want is fairly certain, but that’s another different conversation.

I’m far more open minded that I used to be, we can make any structure or process work well if we have the right people with the mindset to continuously improve and ideally those that have worked with the more frustrating and inefficient project mgt/software delivery frameworks.  Get the right person and the job title doesn’t really matter, as long as the objectives are clear. I’m confident now that I could take on the role(s) of Product Owner, Scrum Master and team line manager and succeed.  That’s based on my experience and empathy I have gained by getting it wrong in the past.

So……what about Business Analysts and Product Owners.  Life is odd isn’t it, having built a Scrum Master and Coaching team and phased out Scrum Masters in the past, I’m now in a position where I’m prepared to do the opposite.

Essentially, we need to get things done, as quickly and cheaply as possible whilst ensuring high enough quality.  We need the teams to be comfortable, inspired with where we are going and know why we are going there.  They can decide the path to get there and advise if its not the right destination as we start to travel.

Without wishing to bite the hand that once fed me I’m starting to wonder if all the theory based preaching, the happy clappy, everyone loves everyone and trusts everyone, no need for managers, holocracy, setting each others objectives and salaries etc etc is actually doing the whole Agile movement a dis service, it’s too far from reality in most mature organisations.

Businesses only exist to serve a purpose and make money doing it.   If we cannot clearly tie the value of all this hugging to the bottom line then we will lose the faith of the very people that employ us.

HOWEVER, I still see value in embedding the Agile mindset at the more senior level, to ensure the business has agility, could this though be an Agile Coach sitting in the HR/People or L&D team? I’m quite interested in the work  Jen D’jelal is doing. If our recruitment teams understand Agile then thats really positive for the future of the business culture and if someone in L&D can train when required then this feels like a great place to be.

Don’t get me wrong I live and breath the Agile values and embody the mindset, however I feel the value much more embedded in project ownership talking about how we are going to increase customer and business focused measures far more than I was getting teams to right their names on balloons.

Why not discuss this further with me……

Lean coffee meetup

Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016, 8:00 AM

All Bar One Milton Keynes
Unit 2, 320 Midsummer Blvd Milton Keynes, GB

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Join us for discussion on Agile, Lean, Testing, Development or whatever else you’d like to talk about. Propose your topics join the group discussion, or just listen and get inspiration.How does a Lean Coffee work?Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are direct…

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We took Lean coffee to MK


We hosted the very first lean coffee in Milton Keynes this week and it was a good one.

A great mix of creative agencies, transport systems, automotive, retail and consulting.  All with very similar challenges and ideas.

In particular we had some great discussion around the usage and meaning of story points and how on occasion we fail to give visibility and consideration to the business/customer value of the work being delivered and instead only focus on technical complexity.

We discussed Scrum and how in very small teams perhaps adding in all ceremonies becomes an overhead.  We started discussing what problems/inefficiencies we were actually looking to solve and that perhaps Scrum wasn’t the most appropriate solution.

Innovation was another that kept us talking for the full 12 minutes (8 + 4), how best to encourage innovation? what strategy encourages the right behaviours? how best to fund? what even is innovation? funnelled through one team or everyones responsibility? continuous improvement or disruption? does your business have agility?

So many questions, perhaps innovation is a great topic for a break  out workshop at a conference, if anyone fancies joining me let me know.

Milton Keynes Lean Coffee Meetup

Milton Keynes, GB
32 Members

Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for…

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Lean coffee meetup

Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016, 8:00 AM
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Conferences – a year in a few minutes

Over the last few months I have taken in several conferences, some Agile focused and some more IT focused.  Below I have captured the main trends and topics coming out of the community.

My favourite keynote of the year was by Linda Rising: and a youtube video here,

My thinking aligns alot with hers around the ineffectiveness of our approach to teaching and learning through doing and failing.

Below are a few of the main ideas/topics I have learnt from this year…..


Mindfulness – sharing stories of failure in teams to build trust and using time to encourage mindfulness techniques.  Makes teams feel safe and relaxed.

Interesting article: 

Practice mindfulness:


Management 3.0 and performance mgtThere is growing recognition that the traditional approach to Performance Management e.g. appraisals and reviews are ineffective and especially toxic to Agile teams. How can we experiment with alternatives and be team-centric and more aligned with Agile values. How, with the appropriate support, it is possible and desirable for Performance Management to become a team responsibility.

Jurgen Appelo: Managing for happiness: Don’t manage the people, manage the system around them,  as Deming famously said “A bad system beats a good person everytime”

If you haven’t heard of Maria Montessori or Lumiar Schooling (Ricardo Semler) then these are worth a read.

One of the speakers, Adam, works in a team that built:

Also if you haven’t read this, then I would strongly recommend:


Ecosystems and platforms – Particularly in the IT community ecosystems are now just as popular as digital, platforms and IoT.  Ecosystems are seen as a way to connect with vendors, customers and communities.  I still think we are a little confused between platforms, ecosystems and marketplaces and some of these words just feel like a way for a vendor to sell a solution.  It’s often interesting to compare and contrast the success of startups versus larger enterprises trying to innovate their business model.

An interesting read from an old boss of mine:


Cryptocurrency – Some really interesting research being carried out by Imperial College London, they built this visualisation of the blockchain showing chains being created live. I don’t pretend to fully understand the underlying tech but it does look pretty.  For those that are interested this is the story of how bitcoin was created:


The internet of things (IoT) –

I’ll just leave you with this: 

Love it or hate it the world of connected devices is here:

Cubic (a little like echo) –


Accounting for Agile – Where traditional cost and time accounting meets Agile fail fast and iteration and experimentation….starting to recognise that timesheeting individuals and seeing additional work (iteration) as maintenance and not adding new value is perhaps not effective for an agile environment.  Measuring individuals output and not teams effects effectiveness. Realisation that timesheets are not accurate, teams are mostly stable so we know how much they cost and we can measure the output and the value generated.  We can start to estimate the cost of delivering features as velocity and item size and team size/cost becomes stable (usually 5 sprints). Initial bugs can also be capex and after a period of opex new value within that feature set can then also become capex.

Start to have common sense conversations with your finance teams in the context of value creation.  Various methods can be used if estimates are required for spend or a budget can be assigned. Ensure for audit purposes that new features (and feature iteration) and bugs and tech debt etc is clearly defined in the work item tracking system.

This is also interesting talk on Agile accounting and GAAP, capitalizing costs and depreciating investments and how this impacts the bottom line is a growing area of discussion in Agile:


Research and cognitive bias – you’re in a bar and looking at the beer options, have a beer (£3) or premium beer (£4).  80% of people go for the premium option.  What if we add a third option? A really cheap beer for £1.80.  This time 80% purchased the normal beer.  By adding an option nobody wanted we changed behaviour.

Kat Matfield always does great talks in this area:


Kata – The technique of kata and kata boards has grown in popularity this year, we had a group present it at our Agile in Covent Garden meetup in February. The background to it is here: It helps focus behaviour on having a vision, a target condition and regularly experimenting with change towards the target condition. Also the importance of reviewing if you are close enough to the vision (definition of awesome).

Some other interesting related areas are the concept of Gemba (go to the place) and Toyotas A3 thinking:


Cost of delay – Some interesting discussions about how cost of delay can be used to aid decision making and prioritisation. A few interesting articles:

Urgency profiles: and COD and if you want to learn from the master:


Skills mapping – Something I first heard by Dan North the concept of understanding what skills the business needs versus skills your team has versus what skills your team wants to learn/teach.  Rather than dashing for outsourcing or recruitment how can we get the best out of the teams we have.  Nothing more amazing than learning something new that I’m interested in and being able to apply it to value creating change for our customers.

Dans talk (Skills mapping diagram at 40minutes)


FSGD (Frequent Small Good Decoupled) – encapsulated attributes of work should have to be successful.  Jon Terry from Leankit talks about the importance of deciding the differing importance between frequency, small, good and decoupled.  For them SAAS meant Frequency was critical but not at the expense of quality.  They talk about quality in 2 contexts, marketability (from customer perspective) and sustainability (from a technical excellence perspective, keeping customer in the long run i.e. cost, performance).

Technical standards were also introduced TLDR (tested, logged, documented and reviewed)

Youtube video:


I hope you will enjoy these topics too, if you want . to discuss any at length let me know 🙂


As a complete aside Schindlers Elevators, had never heard of them but when looking into IoT and connected cities they are trying to innovate.  Not only how devices connect to lifts, how marketing can be targeted based on mood (facial detection) but also how elevators can be ordered and customised in a more digital way.

Stuffing my face in the name of digital

Picture the scene, in fact no, just look at it below….

Walking across the Thames after a beer after work with a friend and off home to retrieve my dinner out of the dog. When alas I discover the trains are delayed. Damn Govia Thameslink!
What to do? Sit and wait 30mins for the next train? What a waste of time. So my hungry self decides to walk back across the river and take in the magic of London on a summers evening. 

At that moment I had a craving for burger, not just any burger, a gourmet burger. I looked on their mobile site to see if they did takeaway, I was inspired by a story of George Osborne having one delivered (that might have been Byron).

On pressing takeaway I was invited to download the app, 90 seconds later it was installed, almost brings a tear to the eye considering that would have taken all evening in the late 90s.

I registered on the app, got my card out my wallet and scanned it, all numbers were magically lifted into the app (ignoring the fact they didn’t have apple pay or paypal, having to get my card out, what a disgrace).
I chose a burger, camemburger as I’m a cheese fiend, and it detected my nearest GBK (only have 0.3miles to stagger) and paid using my previously scanned card. Even 3D secure wasn’t required for this transaction 🙂

My estimated time was a short while after I arrived so I used the facilities (needed due to the aforementioned beer). My burger arrived early at 20.30. 

I then headed off to the train station to inflict my disgusting burger eating on other innocent train passengers……Don’t look at me, I know I’m disgusting…….

God bless our connected world from turning a train delay into an efficient and delicious dinner, driven by digital.

Agile is just words?


I started thinking the other day about words and just how important they can be when associated with creating, driving and influencing change.


I remember talking to a frustrated developer who questioned the Agile movement and all the new words particularly in Scrum and in our adoption of the Spotify model. Scrum, sprints, guilds….they were still doing the same job so what was different?


I had the same realization when I worked with the HR department. Lots of HR teams have re-branded as ‘people teams’ but again, what do the new words mean, why bother?


I’ve worked with supportive and knowledgeable people teams and i’ve worked with some unhelpful and process driven people teams. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the importance of words being supported by strong leadership and purpose.

“Strategy Without Execution Is Hallucination”


When a company introduces the spirit and values of agility in it’s people, processes and strategy or when it renames HR to the People team what we really are looking for is a change in behavior.


I once remember a conversation about the use of the word ‘resources’, one company CEO demanded the word be banished from all conversations, processes and internal communications. A strong statement that they cared about people and did not wish to dehumanize them with the phrase resources.


That got me thinking that words are used to change behavior, once the behavior is changed and the right habits are in place the words become less important. In some companies we can talk about people as resources because the behavior and culture is already at a healthy level.


The same can be said for Agile, some will say it’s just common sense, and I agree, but the words are there to remind us of what values and principles we are aiming for and to help influence a change in our behavior.


So remember, next time you are invited to a retrospective or Kaizen, these are not just silly names for project updates or briefings these are your opportunity to embrace and influence change, collaborate as a group and talk about how you feel about your purpose, the team and the wider business.


The people team should also remember that they are there to support the growth, development and success of people rather than just becoming admin and pointing people to pages on the intranet. Cultivating talent and leading by example, ensuring learning and development is a core value rather than just something available if people have time.


If you are crafting words then choose your words carefully and embrace the power of change, if you are someone questioning “yet another new internal communication with new words” really think about why these new words are being used, what is Agile, Kaizen and Scrum? better still go and ask whoever wrote it or said it, as they should know the change they are trying to influence and the behavior they want to see.