Blog Post: Where, Or Who, Can You Mine For Resources?
A friend was recently telling me about his family’s land in South Texas. You see, while his father’s family were very hard workers, they grew up with equally meager surroundings. It was easy to acquire land back then, because it was cheap and not worth much other than herding cattle. When his grandparents died, they passed down about 100 acres of land each to their five kids. Nobody really celebrated, because there wasn’t much to be done with it.
Oil was struck in all five plots. My friend’s grandparents were walking around a gold mine without knowing it.
I smiled the entire time this story was being told because I know that exact feeling. Not that I live on unearthed crude oil (that I know of). What I was enjoying was the concept of un-mined resources, because it happens on every team I have led.
For example, one of the best assurers of quality I have is an art director on my team. The tester we have is not just gifted, she was born to test on a mobile device. So you would think we have quality sown up. When we got really heavy into the testing phase of the first release, though, I saw several bugs that weren’t related to art being raised by said art director. I started to say something, but instead sat back and watched things unfold. The QA and AD sat side by side, and would often talk about things they saw and how to best document it. As a result, we had a very solid build to deliver as a release candidate (that was also beautiful).
What would have happened if I or the QA tester had stood up and said, “that’s not your job,” to the AD? Some would say that the best artists are also great at finding bugs, but that’s not necessarily part of their scope as a designer. Many in her position would just let it go and, “leave it to QA” to do that job.
As a coach, this kind of passion excites me, and inspired me to look for further un-mined resources. The strategist, who does some development on the side, is gifted in architecting features with the right services. Nearly every developer, while not a designer, has amazing ideas on how to animate and present pixels from their fellow artists. The tester I mentioned earlier is amazing at running and documenting meetings if I have to be out of the office. A team of people that see their job description as a starting point instead of a box to not deviate from.
Imagine if we all started looking around us for resources that have been under our noses the entire time. Would we discover an entire team that can ensure quality? A few extra UX designers that have been dying to have their opinion solicited? Maybe our solution could be architected a little more solidly if we only asked for volunteers to raise their hands.
I can guarantee there is oil all around us, waiting to be struck. The question is, are you willing to ask and then do something about it when you find it?
Tagged: agile, art, design, development, leadership, lean, mobile, scrum, ux
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1ehsABE
I am often reminded of how wonderful it is to be working in this current time period. Not only do I get to work with the greatest technology ever known, but I am paid to interact with it on a daily basis. I get to wear pretty much anything I want to the office, and that’s not even the greatest perk I have when I head in. When I sit down with my boss for a one-on-one talk about how things are going, I am frequently asked about my happiness.
Never do I remember being asked this question early on in my career. Despite my young age, I remember being repeatedly told that my paycheck was the only “thank you” I deserved. My how times have changed.
Happiness is something discussed in human relations circles, as well as industry leaders. As pointed out by agile grand poo-bah Jeff Sutherland, ensuring the happiness of your company can produce 50 times the productivity. When he’s not busy passing on his wisdom of Scrum, he’s teaching many of us on how important it is that we are happy at work.
Since then, many have tried to take the idea down a peg, or two. While important to acknowledge the limitations of any measurement in the workplace, there have been numerous studies that have backed up Mr. Sutherland.
The basics are simple: everyone is anonymously asked how happy they have been recently and then follow up with open-ended questions about how things could improve for you. Individually, a nameless survey on this information is useless, but when grouped together it can signal good or bad times coming for your company. Imagine the possibilities this information could open up.
The best part is when you take this one step further. If happy people produce better work, enjoy coming in, and gladly sacrifice for the greater good…is there one specific thing you could do to improve happiness?
Matt Killingsworth, as part of his doctoral research at Harvard, created a survey where people were asked at various points in the day how happy they were. You can still sign up, I highly encourage it. Amongst the metrics measured were if the subject wanted to be doing what they were currently in the middle of, what exactly it was, and if they were thinking about something else. The most telling stat was the focus of the subject.
In his TED talk about the subject, Killingsworth said respondents were overwhelmingly happier when they stayed in the moment of whatever they were doing. As ridiculous as it sounds, thinking about your commute while you are in the middle of it produces a higher happiness rating than the music trying to distract you.
Peter Saddington addressed the idea of multitasking and how study after study shows it to be a myth in his Agile 2013 presentation “The Science of High Performance Teams”. Not only are we incapable of putting 100 percent behind two things at the same time, it actually diminishes the results of all tasks conducted.
So, if happy employees produce better work, and focused people are generally happier, wouldn’t it make sense to find any way possible to train yourself to focus at work?
Many roles make this tough, I know mine does. Problem is, sitting in a meeting while responding to emails means you aren’t writing your best while not retaining anything from the meeting concurrently. Will this kind of shift mean radical changes in how we work? Absolutely, but the results of batching work into a series of Pomodoro Techniques can make all the difference in your happiness.
Curious of your thoughts, have you had experiences in this kind of measurement at work?
Tagged: agile, focus, happiness, pomodoro, productivity, scrum, TED
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1kp37xr
Blog Post: What Can A Benedictine Monk Teach Agile Coaches?
It’s crazy to think about how long TED talks have been around. Long enough for them to be an unknown quantity, diamond in the rough, huge hit, lame, hit again, lame again, and so on. I view each one as a box of Cracker Jacks. You know there’s going to be a prize inside each one, it just may be a sticker instead of a ring. I’m past the mystique of it all, and choose to listen to the audio podcast version. Makes my work commutes much more enjoyable.
The best ones are always out of nowhere surprises. Recently, I went into a talk by Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast on happiness with very low expectations. I’m fascinated by the subject (as is the rest of the world), but I don’t need “5 tips to increase them” because that trick has been played. Instead he argued that gratefulness was the key. True happiness, he went on to say, comes from when we receive something valuable and have a chance to reflect upon it. That’s where gratefulness comes in.
Of course, not every situation is easy to be thankful for, but he doesn’t think that’s where gratitude fits in. Instead of being grateful of awful situations, instead reflect on how amazing it is that we have a chance to respond. With grace, kindness, affection, transparency, sincerity, or merely be thankful that you have another chance to try again next time.
As an agile coach, and aspiring leader in this space, I think I have opportunities to not only demonstrate gratitude, but help encourage this attitude amongst the ranks. So my ears perked up. I started wondering, is it possible for an agile leader to learn something from a Benedictine monk to help his or her team?
Steindl-Rast, who started a non-profit called gratefulness.org, states that to bring out more gratitude in our lives, we must put more stop signs up in our lives. When we are at a stop sign, we stop…then look around…then go. He encouraged us to do all three things more often. It encourages gratitude, which raises the happiness in what we do.
Stop me of you’ve heard that before guys. Where have we heard this before?
If only we had something where we stop every couple of weeks, look around, then move forward with a fresh perspective. Our iteration retrospectives provide that distinct stop sign to, regardless of what’s going on, stop and look around. The kicker will be to have the right attitude of this ceremony. We can be pragmatic about finding what needs to be improved, or we can be grateful for all the lessons we have learned.
I tried this at the next retro. Instead of doing our usual “continue, stop and start” questions, I just opened it up to the team for some shout outs. Scared that the team would think it was lame, I tried anyways. Instead the team launched into a sea of gratefulness that washed over the team. I even got one, and I would be lying if it didn’t make me feel awesome!
Being self-aware while you are in the moment of something is difficult. So instead of working to fix every moment, just put some stop signs in front of you and your teams more to look around. If you can increase gratefulness, you just might find yourself surrounded by a happier team. We all know the kind of work happy teams do.
Tagged: agile, gratefulness, happiness, retrospectives, scrum
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1e6UKCX
Blog Post: How Do You Define ‘Fail’?
If we’re going to puff up our chests and be all macho about it, nobody really wants to fail at anything. You’re reading the words of a man who doesn’t have patience when I have to explain something twice — regardless of how well I articulated my point. The minute my wife challenges an opinion, I get defensive and wonder why the world is conspiring against me. When I finish a scrum ceremony with one single misaligned expectation, I grit my teeth and wish I still smoked and drank.
Good news, though. None of those scenarios describe true failure.
That’s why I feel for statements like this from Pandora CTO Tom Conrad:
“There’s this motto in our industry that says fail fast and fail often,” he stated at a recent summit. “But none of us can actually do that right? We have all kinds of constituents — employees, investors, users — they are expecting you to do smart things, not dumb things. So one of the first things I said was let’s not pretend we can just try things and some will work out and some won’t. That’s not winning, that’s losing.”
Bold words, and he should be taken seriously when there is a new app started every day trying to destroy Pandora. Yet, there they still are. To this day, my wife still prefers them to Spotify, iTunes Radio, Slacker, or any other usurper. Problem is, I would argue his words amount to little more than posturing for the press. Like any other successful company in the tech industry, Pandora could make a list a mile long of missteps along the way to fame. I could point to the ever-evolving algorithm, as point one.
Without knowing him personally, or witnessed this statement live, I can only speculate what he meant. If we leveled our understanding of the word “failure”, I think he would say the same thing agile coaches state every day:
There’s nothing wrong with failing.
Maybe you hear the latest single from Arcade Fire too often. The button you added for Google authentication probably wasn’t placed in the right place. Perhaps iPhone users want all sounds muted when they flip the switch, that means you too videos. Those are all pieces of failure.
This applies to technical requirements, interpersonal relationship management, business behavior, and so on. What Pandora is thankful for is the fact that they have learned from little failures every day to stay on their lofty perch. Yes, the brand doesn’t quite have the punch it used to, but many leaders in Silicon Valley will tell you that staying alive is winning. Conrad may see “failing fast” as losing, but I would take the opportunity to pivot over shutting my doors any day.
Stop being afraid of putting your failures out there. Your peers will see your transparency and respect the fact that you are growing and learning through them. Those are the people I want to work with — and who’s products I really want to use.
Tagged: agile, fail fast, failure, lean, pandora, scrum, startup
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1nFEdGO
Blog Post: What Barriers Will New Input Methods Remove?
Remember how it was ludicrous when you heard the number of advertising messages you receive a day? Thousands, or rather hundreds of thousands, of different brands and ideas are projected to you every day for consumption. Now, we just try to make sure we understand all of them and process the ones important enough to us. We even flock to curators of content to help with this task.
While the numbers are not comparable yet, the amount of ways we can input data into computers is accelerating just as fast.
Almost 30 years ago, the fine folks at Apple and IBM introduced us to the first two methods of input. They both depended on our fingers: the keyboard and mouse. Crazy to think that I have been perfecting my typing and clicking skills for that long. Before we chuckle, think of the computing ability both methods gave us. We could write, play games, create art, read, research, publish, and countless other activities with just our hands.
Makes sense why there wasn’t a need to iterate past those two. Fortunately for me I was born at the right time. By the time I finish this post, my father can bang out a paragraph or two. You know I love you Dad, but it’s true.
My how times have changed.
Mobile devices and the multi-touch interface started a revolution. Now that we can take computers wherever we want — with data connectivity to multiply our productivity — why limit our imagination?
The question was multiplied after rewatching a talk from Luke Wroblewski at the October 2013 dContruct conference. It’s worth the time to watch, because he takes us from 2007 to today with all the various methods. Just to name a few, here are some of the ways we can currently provide our devices input:
- Your Voice
- And this is just for starters!
In the future, you will have the ability to use your heartbeat to unlock and start your car. A special grip could be used to open your house door. Certainly, you will soon be turning any flat surface (or just project it into the air) into a touch interface. The Starbucks table I am working on certainly will need a good cleaning before that happens.
Problem is, it kind of seems overwhelming to process all of this. Not only will there be specialized apps collecting and curating this data, but we will need to consume it.
Nobody dared come up with different input methods once we had the keyboard and mouse, because usage patterns solidified. If the QWERTY keyboard has kept it’s current configuration for this long, how are we to process all of these new input methods?
Just because we can create data all of these ways, does that mean we should?
Removing hurdles will be the barrier most important for input creation in the next 10 years. It’s no big deal to attach a device that automatically uses my heartbeat (which is as diverse as a fingerprint) to authenticate my identity, so the price of those devices will be the key barrier. If price is okay, but the heartbeat is too easy to fake, then how viable will it be?
Greatest example is what gesture typing is doing on the Android platform. We type on our mobile devices just like on a keyboard just because it’s what we are used to. When apps like Swype arrived a year or two ago, though, you could type a single word in one type. Even the hard ones. I will admit, it’s one of the reasons I bought a Nexus 7 instead of an iPad. One barrier is removed, allowing for easier input.
What will be the next barrier to fall? Can’t wait to see.
Tagged: apps, data, devices, input, mobile
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1aLqzBs
Blog Post: Is Your Team Really Ready To Start?
We do short release cycles at Bottle Rocket. Mobile technology has called for smaller code bases, but I don’t think it’s just this industry has this issue. The days of being paid per line of code, or large applications being seen as higher quality, are over. To allow for pivoting product priorities, easier maintenance, and faster refactors, companies worldwide are in the middle of slicing their platforms to allow for more agile development.
At the end of every release, there are a few days of code freeze to solidify the release candidates for our clients. It’s not revolutionary, and every company handles code freeze differently. When my first project hit this stage, I talked to all of the appropriate leads and department heads to understand the entry criteria for the release sprint. I validated, completed feedback loops, and then set off to deliver some amazing code.
To say it flopped on me would be an understatement.
There were many factors outside of this conversation that had an effect. Talking to everyone on the team, they felt the main culprit for our challenging few days was highlighted by not understanding if we were ready or not. As a side note, this is the sign of an incredibly mature group of creators to see them quickly come to this realization. They are awesome for seeing this (among other reasons they rock).
My mistake was thinking all I needed to do was ask the right questions. If everyone says they understand what’s expected, I thought, nothing should go wrong. Instead, we should have detailed it together.
The retrospective revealed that even though we all knew what was expected, we looked at entry criteria in generic terms. Instead, we should have looked at our current release. Conversation needed to be had surrounding particular polish items, highly rated bugs, and non-functional pieces missing. So, when we hit the next freeze period, you can bet we had that discussion.
Questions started flying around the validity of certain items and how necessary they were for release. Both Android and iOS platforms had their specific problems that still weren’t solved. In the end, we realized we needed another day or two before we hit our freeze period and entered with a full understanding of how we needed to finish this sucker off.
What resulted was a much shorter frozen period, and instead of looking at each other in frustration, we were joking around and delivered amazing builds to the client that were immediately accepted.
Best part, they aren’t done “defining ready”. The retrospective showed they want to do this every single release, no matter how small. They want to constantly ask each other if they are ready or not. Instead of resting on our laurels, we want to do that with every new feature, API integration, or client review.
Beauty of this conversation is it never gets stale. “Ready” may change for your team as it grows and matures. You may want to start delivering art sooner or later. Testing may want to happen side by side while integration happens. Development may want to perform a research spike before taking a stab at a feature. Process can be added or subtracted, depending on your comfort level.
Regardless of the day or stage in your release or sprint, dare to ask your team to define “ready” for you. Might be surprised at the results.
Tagged: agile, definition of done, definition of ready, lean, mobile, scrum
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1nF4hEV
Blog Post: Is Mobile Ordering The Missing Link for Retail?
We hate waiting in line, not to mention that once we finish waiting…there’s more waiting. There’s the whole, “need to pull out my wallet and give you currency” hassle. Then, finally, whatever I paid for needs to be produced. Goodness, I hope all this was worth it. Honestly, I just want what I want and I need it faster.
First world problem or not, this is what most companies that serve some sort of product in a brick-and-mortar retail product are discussing this very minute. They’ve seen the Amazon Effect, watched Best Buy fight back, and noticed how Starbucks makes 10 percent of it’s revenue off it’s mobile app. Retail is in desperate need of a salve.
Funny thing is, as I’ve stated before, retail locations aren’t really in trouble. They just need a boost of new technology to reduce the hurdles. Enter mobile ordering.
Now that you can pay – and be rewarded for doing so – using your mobile app in a local Starbucks, the company has announced plans for mobile ordering. If the barrier for giving your barista money is eliminated, wouldn’t it be even better if you could tell them you are on the way and have it waiting for you? Instead of the “mosh pit” in front of the counter, you can just grab the latte and a seat to enjoy with your paper or Kindle app.
Companies are trying to crack mobile payment currently, but are missing a crucial part of the feature. Yes, I want to get rid of my physical wallet and need only my phone to leave the house. Until the government comes up with a virtual drivers license, though, I have to have one. So I need more of an incentive. Starbucks uses a loyalty-program to encourage users to pay with their phone, but it’s no different than punch cards. The app is super-shaky too, depending on your location and time of day.
If I could pay with my phone and skip the line, though, now we have a game changer on our hands.
Lines stink, as I stated at the beginning. We put up with them because regardless of how fast the service is, there will usually be people that are in front of us at the counter and drive-thru. For the same reason we put up with traffic, we wait for our Whataburger. There’s no “fast pass” for quick-service retail right?
Of course, once retail cracks the line, then you need to give customers a reason to stay. Being first in this category will result in a bit of a bump by early adopters, but I personally don’t like hanging around in fast food locations longer than it takes to get my food. There are some stores that found a way to keep my kids entertained, so they get bonus points. Once my kids outgrow the playgrounds, though, you’ve lost your edge.
This is where iBeacons sensors under tables, augmented-reality menus, and mobile registers come into play. That’s all coming. For now, I’ll just settle for being able to sit down at my favorite spot and let them bring my preordered, prepaid food to me.
Tagged: apps, e-commerce, m-commerce, mobile, ordering, product, retail, strategy
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1jTFavd
Blog Post: Are We On The Same Page With Smart Watches?
I am currently in the middle of an argument with my client.
Sounds dramatic, right? Even gave the sentence it’s own paragraph. It’s not exactly an argument, because my client wouldn’t have that title much longer if I was really arguing with him. What’s really going on is there is one topic he keeps bringing up that gets a reaction from me: wearable technology.
It all started when he got a Pebble watch for Christmas. Hayden, the account manager on my team wears a Pebble as well. In fact, I know several people with one, or something similar. Smart watches are the topic of many conversations right now in mobile technology because they, and the valuable data-gathering sensors, are going revolutionize everything.
My argument to said client and Hayden, is that I already have the best wearable technology on the market: my phone.
Of course, this gets everyone all flustered and smiling in that patronizing way, but what I am trying to do is challenge the “smart watch” category of wearable technology and challenge it’s true purpose. I wish I had the source, but I read on Twitter the other day that the top feature for many smart watch wearers is the clock. If that is indeed true, maybe I’m just not the right buyer for this device category.
Currently, Pebbles offer users a limited range of features, but they are valuable for someone that has a desire to still wear a watch. If you’re going to be strapping something to your wrist, might as well be something that deliver SMS and email notifications as well as track some basic health data. For Galaxy Gear owners, you can even take pictures and use it as a crude sort of bluetooth headset for phone calls.
Even then, I’m not interested.
It took me a while to become a tablet owner. Sure, the price was a fairly high hurdle to get over, but if there was really a reason I would have found a way. Main reason was I could do everything I wanted with my iPhone, so why introduce another device that I had to relearn habits on. I can’t be the only one.
Wearable technology, which is a much larger product category than just watches, will be changing our lives very soon. I, however, don’t think that change will come strapped to our wrists. It will be in our shirts, our shoes, our belts, bluetooth headsets, maybe even our contact lenses someday.
Technology that is truly “wearable” is all about data collection and the services it connects to. A slight few of them might turn around and display information, but true revolution in this category won’t come for a very long time. Personally, I think users would prefer it to not be obtrusive, and a watch is still a fashion statement.
With all that in mind, I have held off on getting a Fitbit or Nike Fuel band because I’m waiting for just the right item to attach to my wrist. Could Apple change my mind with a slick design? Will Samsung stop being creepy and come up with something I’m actually interested in? Is my wrist going to be empty from here on at this point?
For the record, Pebble is satisfied with sales numbers (almost 200,000 to date), but several of their users have a bit of buyers remorse afterwards. Samsung can’t seem to give these suckers away, so I don’t blame Apple for slowing their roll a bit. Watches will need to show me something new and different my phone. Even if I don’t “wear” it on a daily basis, my iPhone is always within reach and gives me everything I could ever need (and more) in a fashion statement.
And if he’s still reading, my client is the wind that helps me soar to new height. If you don’t see that as a bet being won, I can’t do anything for you.
Tagged: data, iphone, mobile, pebble, samsung gear, smart watch, wearable technology
from WordPress http://ift.tt/KxjhVr
Blog Post: ‘Hooked’ Teaches Ability And Responsibility For Attracting Users
When I was still trying to find my writing voice prior to this blog, I reviewed comic books; a ton of them. Sometimes it seemed like I just hammered away at my keyboard, filled with nerd rage. Occasionally, genuine criticism seeped out of my posts. Point being, I’m not a literary savant by any stretch. I never took my work as “serious” literary criticism. Instead, I just spoke to how the material resonated to me.
God bless the readers of those posts at Comics Bulletin.
Somehow, I forgot that voice when I took a stab at reviewing Nir Eyal’s book Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products. It was an amazing read that I felt validated and encouraged a lot of what my teams are working towards every day. Thankfully, I put the thoughts of critique aside and remembered my lane: connection.
There are, most likely, thousands of published materials on the market telling us how to make better stuff these days. From Seth Godin’s blog, Steve Krug’s book, Product Hunt’s community, and everything in between, product development is it’s own market. For good reason, mind you. It’s easier than ever to put an idea out there for validation. This power brings home the idea that you can’t just have an idea, you must cultivate it well if it is to be successful.
Eyal, along with Ryan Hoover, set out do to exactly that. His version of user engagement is called Hook Model; creating a feedback loop of triggers, actions, rewards and investments. Each section not only details each section each phase of establishing habits for your potential customers, but specific action items you can take to the office the very next day. That’s why each chapter ends with a section called “do this now”.
The TechCrunch, Forbes, and Psychology Today writer doesn’t just show readers a playbook to success, though. The beauty of Hooked isn’t just in the teaching, case studies and actionable steps for satisfied users. Eyal teaches to be careful with these tools. This is not something implicit, or quotable for that matter, but the sense I got throughout is “just because you can hook users, doesn’t mean you should.”
No example shines brighter than Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker. Incensed by the popularity of the Facebook game Farmville, Bogost created an app where users did nothing more than click on virtual cows to hear a satisfying “moo”. The developer thought everyone would be in on the joke, realizing the same game mechanics used in the popular Zynga game were making them click bovines incessantly. Instead, usage skyrocketed and he was forced to shut it down. The “Cowpocalypse”, as he called it, signaled something Mr. Bogost and others have realized about this generation of users:
Be careful about getting users hooked.
As I read through the various examples of successful products, you get the sense that some of this wasn’t necessarily a good thing for it’s users. I say this right before I give the folks at Candy Crush more money, because I can finish this level with five more moves. We all know what it’s like to be hooked with various apps, retail stores, or product category. We don’t know why we need more all the time, we just go get it.
The information not only makes me question the intent of projects I’m working on currently, but I want to spread the word of this intent to all my friends. Not as a product developer and brand manager, but as a consumer as well.
Granted, to have the kind of success laid out in Hooked is something to be admired. It’s easy to hate on Farmville after the fact, but at the time people were dying to work for Zynga because they were going to revolutionize gaming. Which, for the most part, they did. It just wasn’t sustained over the long term. I feel that is an important distinction to make, and thus be reminded that with these powers comes great responsibility.
Curious to know what others have thought of this book. The short read stirs the mind with ability and responsibility. Please go support this effort from Eyal. You may need to hire him afterwards, though.
Tagged: addiction, engagement, hooked, lean, mobile, users, ux
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1iRO9wo
Blog Post: Do You Enjoy Your ‘Disadvantages’?
With the number of people I meet on a weekly basis, it always takes me aback whenever someone persists in my mind long after the interaction ends. Have you ever met someone that instantly changes your world view? Recently, I was blessed by such an encounter when my in-laws were visiting for the holidays.
My mother and father-in-law are amazing because they welcome everyone into their lives. It’s a great example for my kids, and keep me on my toes (as well as my mind open). On this visit, I got to meet Robert as he rolled through my front door.
Robert is a man in his late 60′s, and he has cerebral palsy.
When he was born, the lack of medical technology kept a lot of parents in the dark. As Robert changed from a baby to a toddler, his parents noticed their boy was different. He didn’t speak and move like others his age, and doctors said he was most likely mentally retarded. He was not taught like normal kids in school, and frequently he heard adults around him say he would never really amount to much.
I can’t imagine what must have gone on in his head at the time, but he said it was then he decided, “I’ll show them.”
My father-in-law started at the same college Robert attended. He was a few years behind him in age, so the “disabled” student was well established in collegiate life by then. His story of Robert in college is astounding.
“Every girl on campus loved Robert. They fought over who would get to push him to their next class.”
Because he can’t physically take the same load as usual college students, it took him a bit longer to finish his degree than most. Once he finished at Abilene Christian University, he wanted to take a mission trip with some others to Portugal. Once he got funding (which is a story in and of itself), off he went. Most of his traveling companions went off in other directions, so very quickly Robert found himself all alone in a foreign country where he didn’t know the language.
“I went to a restaurant and pointed at an item on the menu,” he said. After sitting there looking at my food for a while, a waiter came over and offered to feed me once the rush ended.”
What made his visit enjoyable is the same thing that makes meeting him today so awesome. His enthusiasm and laugh are infectious. You can’t help but laugh along with him, even if you didn’t catch every word he says. Eventually, he met his future wife in Portugal and learned the language.
Today, Robert and his wife are retired and living in Dallas to be near grandchildren. They spend so many days at a local prison volunteering, they simply joined the church inside the unit. As I am sitting over breakfast hearing all of his story, I’m smiling and nodding my head. It’s a great story. Then he that one thing I can’t get out of my head.
“It’s fun being handicapped.”
As a type 1 diabetic, my physical struggles are nowhere near as rough as his. What I do understand, however, is living with physical limitations. I do not find diabetes fun. It’s a curse, as a matter of fact, and after 20 years with the disease I still hate the day I was diagnosed.
It got me thinking, what else do I have that is considered as a “disadvantage” in life? There certainly are personality glitches we all have that cause friction. Physical limitations can get in the way of some activities. Monetary challenges can be the biggest sometimes.
Made me ask myself, “is it possible for me to enjoy the struggles in life?”
The question will be rolling around in my head for a while, because I clearly don’t have an answer. What I was presented, though, was a man with more to gripe about than me that loves the “disadvantages” he was born with. He sees them not as a hindrance, but as an avenue for connecting with people. That’s where I want to be.
What’s your “disadvantage”?
Tagged: disadvantages, handicap, life, overcome
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1eC8KCi
Blog Post: Can We Stop Being So Literal With ‘Viable’ Please?
The term “Minimum Viable Product” has been around for so long that it is now a cliche. If you aren’t writing a post on how the startup framework stinks, you’re writing about how you’ve improved upon it.
Take, for example, this post by the very talented Robleh Jama of Tiny Hearts. The app studio founder desires to pass along some great advice to aspiring creators what he has learned along the way to four stellar launches. The part that stood out to me, however, was this statement about how to define the scope of your release:
“Make sure your app has maximum desirability, viability and feasibility, especially for version 1. That’s MDVFP.” He ends the paragraph with the statement, “MDVFP is the new MVP!”
So the problem, it would seem, Jama has with MVP is the Viable part. I noticed at least once or twice a month in 2013, as writers were keen on attacking the theory Eric Ries made popular in his book Lean Startup. Most of the posts, as is the case with Jama’s, agree that you shouldn’t try to bite off more than you can chew at once. You take an idea, spit-polish it to perfection, and let the world tell you how you did.
The interesting part of Jama’s MDVFP is the extra letters. Instead of a product simply being considered “viable”, he also includes desirability and feasibility to the equation. The acronym is taken from this document on human-centered design, a concept that being investigated and tested by the mobile development community today. For a product to follow HCD axioms, it must be extremely desirable, technically feasible, and financially viable to be put into production.
What I am confused by is why aren’t these concepts already part of an MVP design? How in the world could someone follow The Lean Startup get their company off the ground if they didn’t take desirability into consideration? Wouldn’t they have done research into the technical capability of creating their viable idea before pitching it?
Viable is being ripped to shreds because people want to play the semantics game with the word. If I had a dollar for every time a developer told me they disagreed with the concept of MVP, I would at least be able to treat my wife to dinner. Instead of focusing on the intent of the term and using it as a framework instead of instructions, I think more would understand that “viable” pretty much covers everything else you think it doesn’t.
The definition many often forget is the original. Minimum Viable Product is nothing more than, “…a version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
Do the smallest amount of work needed to get the most learning done. If you work in client services like me, that may include a bit more work than you would if you were building for yourself. Either way, you have a conversation around what is needed and go build it. If you can combine that with the agile principle of making decisions as late in the release cycle as possible, you have something going.
If the term itself bothers you, there’s nothing wrong with coming up with your own twist. Ryan Hoover called his Minimum Viable Experiment. Roman Pichler likes Minimal Marketable Product. Startup Blender prefers Minimum Delightful Product. It does on and on. The problem occurs when you try to point how your term is different than the original. The reason why Ries and that term has stuck around for so long is because it is generic enough to cover most of the others.
If it’s viable, it’s marketable, delightful, and so much more.
I prefer blogs like David Aycan’s post on HBR about the most important letter in MVP. In it, he doesn’t concern himself with the consternation over the term “viable”. Instead, he focuses his energy on not getting to minimalistic with your work and instead worrying about whether it’s viable or not.
Part of me thinks that advice is more relevant than ever. Stop trying to coin your own term. Instead, focus on making viable happen.
Tagged: agile, lean, mobile, scrum, startup
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1g6zziY
Blog Post: What A Year Of Blogging Taught Me
As an agile coach with experience in the startup community, there is no greater way to learn than by just doing it. That was the advice Seth Godin gave me last December. The only way people will know you are an expert at something, he said, is if you tell them. It challenged me, because I wondered if I had what it took.
Mobile technology was not only my work, it fascinated me on a daily basis. It was lean by definition, which melded nicely with me being a scrum coach. I wondered if agile and mobile could be written about in the same space. So, off I went.
Over 200 posts later, both are experiencing growth in the technology industry, so it’s been fun to watch it play out. I am not sure if I am an expert at either subject, but writing for a year, has taught me a ton.
I learned to lead with transparency. How often have you found yourself reading the thoughts of a person you hardly know anything about? Not that you have to personally know me to take my posts seriously, but your voice needs to contain pieces of who you are for your words to resonate with readers. The easiest way is to be transparent.
Granted, leading is the difficult part. When I coach my teams and peers, transparency is one of the most difficult and productive ways to lead. You must, of course, encourage others by first demonstrating it. When business leaders speak of “leading” transparency, they are referring to the fact that all great leaders demonstrate the trait. To do that, you must be the first to initiate transparency. I have found that the more I write with transparency, the more I lead with it.
I learned being an expert means collaborating with others. There have been many times in my career that I was all alone with my ideas. I was either the only person in my subject area at the time, or in a remote location where I couldn’t easily discuss what was going on. In both situations, it was up to me to reach out to others for validation. When someone wanted to know how I felt about the field of mobile technology or agile development methodology, I simply pointed them to chrismurman.com and asked them to let me know what they thought.
Not only did it lead to a wealth of information in the form of conversations, but others got to know me in a unique way. My current boss at Bottle Rocket, who I met through LinkedIn, had access to all the information he needed on Chris Murman. When a spot opened up on his team, the relationship we had formed made his call simple. This post by Ryan Hoover emphasizes this point by stating a blog is the new resume.
I also learned my writing improves my work. There have been days where my wife wasn’t happy about my blogging. Pesky things like “family time” and “connecting” were getting put aside because I needed to crank out one more post. Eventually, though, she learned that sacrifices just needed to be made. Hashtag sarcasm.
In all seriousness, it’s hard to commit to writing every week. When I first started, I wanted to post every day. With this being my 213th post, I did not succeed, but what I established is a habit. There are some habits that are necessary, such as brushing your teeth. Others, like writing your thoughts on a regular basis, helps you to think. That translates to better thoughts on what I want to accomplish during work hours, and my conversations are structured well.
If I am willing to post the thought online, you can bet I have thought it out to the best of my ability. When the same subject comes up at work, I can easily articulate my point and seem more authoritative. Doing that about one subject per week is 52 well-established thoughts that can improve your work. Imagine if you did two or three a week!
Take the same challenge I took a year ago. It can improve your thought process personally and professionally. It’s an effort well worth the sacrifice. What would you like a year of writing to teach you?
Tagged: agile, blogging, mobile, scrum, strategy, writing
from WordPress http://ift.tt/19ZyybU
Blog Post: Retailers Are Doing Just Fine, Amazon
Everyone is singing the praises of Jeff Bezos and his brick-and-mortar killer Amazon these days. They released a new and improved Kindle that is arguably the best Android tablet on the market, announced drone delivery and set the Internet on fire, and now will be testing Sunday delivery in some cities.
Some, including this post by GigaOm, seem to think this is one more nail in the coffin of legacy retailers.
On one hand, it’s easy to see why the writer comes to this conclusion. If I can get products to my doorstep on any day of the week, why wouldn’t I put more on my wish list? My wife loves the ease of Christmas shopping online, letting Amazon wrap and ship our family’s presents the past two years. She avoids the lines, and allows her to take care of an important task during the kids’ nap time.
Problem is, I hate shopping online.
As a member of the mobile tech community, please don’t mistake my comments for some sort of lifestyle aloofness. I buy my music, software, movies, books, and sometimes t-shirts. Online shopping helps booking hotels, reserve tables at restaurants and shop for the best prices on cars.
That’s just an incredibly small amount of my shopping pie to be done online.
Apple sells more per square foot than any other retailer in the world, and it’s not because everyone shops online. They provide rich experiences that can’t be mimicked on a web site. It’s not just with my next computing device though. I would never allow a distribution center decide what avocados and tomatoes to send me. I like trying on clothes before I check out, and don’t a hassle on returning them if I change my mind. Certainly, I don’t want to introduce present shopping with my daughter sitting at my desk.
Showrooming caught large brick-and-mortar retailers by surprise, but it was a good thing. While they move slow, they certainly picked up the pace when it came to reducing the bottom line. Best Buy is already matching online prices, and more have started following suit. Changes in overhead are coming to allow for these price-matching strategies, but the survivors will adapt more easily than we think.
As much as we like to jump on the pile on the Internet, we should instead be focusing our efforts on telling legacy retailers what we want. Amazon does not have all of the answers yet, and while the thought of a drone delivering my new Batman tee is cool that won’t be the norm for me even if it does happen. I want great service by people who love helping customers find great products.
Sure, it’s a bit selfish: I need the chance to get out of the house on a weekend.
Tagged: internet, mobile, online, retail, shopping, showrooming, strategy, tech
from WordPress http://ift.tt/J7sPGF
Blog Post: Are You Adding To Your Team’s Debt?
Back during the height of his acting power, Russell Crowe starred in Gladiator. For my money, it’s one of those red-blooded male movies impossible to knock on pure action. It was made right when high quality televisions were starting to hit the market, so the opening scene where Rome slaughters the barbarian Germans will always stand out in my mind. As Crowe is about to lead his men into battle, he utters this promise:
“If you find yourself fighting alone in a field of green grass…do not be frightened for you are in Elysium and you’re already dead.”
Much as we all chuckled along with the troops at that reference, we all have been there. You took it upon yourself to find a way around the UX problem found during user testing. Maybe you thought of a tweak to a requirement while trying to follow asleep. Even better, you were inspired by thumbing through periodicals at your local bookstore (let’s be honest, you were doing it on your iPad) and wanted to put together the design you were sure to win an award with.
Problem was, without knowing it you might have entered a vacuum and forgotten the people necessary for your masterpiece. Your team.
This is not to besmirch those that burn the midnight oil to reach for new heights fueled purely by your passion. Some amazing ideas have been crafted at home and have been shown to my teams during standup the next morning. Difference being, they communicated before, during and after their fit if inspiration hits.
That was a tweet I read this morning that got me thinking: cowboy coders aren’t the only people guilty of solo-programming. Biz dev can go off on their own to make promises their team can’t deliver. Designers could be implementing a feature the development team can’t actually code. Development may be building an incredible amount of technical debt by trying to jam something in. All of this could be built around features that were poorly thought out with little validation from stakeholders.
In this instance, “technical debt” could be renamed “team debt”.
As much as we like to applaud the amazing individual efforts of the high performers around us, we have to be careful that we don’t encourage cowboys who run off on their own. That’s when you look up with a mountain of extra work because we weren’t willing to huddle regularly and share what we are working on. I have a team that checks in multiple times during the day with each other.
For you Pomodoro Technique fans out there, I am not suggesting we get rid of our heads down time to be productive. The same team members that check in with each other also want to be left alone for stretches. During “quiet time”, sharing occurs electronically in amazing tools like BaseCamp, HipChat, and CampFire to validate while respecting others around us. Collaboration doesn’t have to be noisy.
What we avoid now will save your skin once you are nearing the end of your release. Think of your team debt as the line Crowe delivers next in the scene:
“Brothers, what we do now…echoes for eternity.”
Tagged: agile, mobile, project management, scrum, team building
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1c52jsf
Blog Post: Where’s The Art In Your Work?
When I was younger, it angered me that I couldn’t draw. Even when I was introduced to impressionism, dadaism, and other less realistic forms of art, I still got angry that I couldn’t use a pencil and make the best space shuttle in class. I even checked out books from the library on how to sketch various pop culture characters in the hopes of “training myself” to be a better artist. I thought the best drawings would get me chicks, I guess.
That’s why I threw myself into photography in college. If my fellow arts majors could out do me with charcoal in their hands, I would run circles around them in the darkroom. It was a craft I would teach myself and allow me the pride to call my work “art”. Anything I created, of course, probably was just as much art as my peers’ work, but I couldn’t see that truth back then.
Fast forward 15 years, and I still get caught up in the same comparison game when I look around my office.
There is an unbelievable amount of magic being created at Bottle Rocket, and hundreds of other offices just like that today. Many of us have collectively agreed to look at every detail of our work in painstaking detail and turn them into true experiences. Artists, UX designers, strategists, developers and testers come together with a singular focus: find the magic and show the world.
Problem is, that’s not my job, or so I sometimes think.
PMs, biz devs, and other organizers get to be there from day one helping the project along. When I first started in this role as an “organizer”, it was satisfying for many reasons. We fly out for client meetings, gesture at Keynote presentations, and take important people out for meals. For people pleasers like me, however, it can sometimes lead to a little bit of creation envy.
Fortunately, the truth couldn’t be further from this idea. I just needed to see the art in my work.
Corny as that sounds, if there wasn’t any art in my role as a leader I would be the most replaceable person at my company. At Bottle Rocket, nobody is replaceable because we are all the best at what we do. We may execute it differently than our office mates, which is why there is truly art in all of our work.
Anyone that watches my wife interact with my son and daughter can see the art in her work because every day with those munchkins is different. Same goes for the people that build my car, sew my jeans, read my posts, direct my company and a million of other things that happen all around me daily. I just had trouble seeing it because product backlogs and retrospective rundowns aren’t hung at the Met in NYC.
If you don’t see the art in your work, chances are you struggle with the same thing I do every day: perception and expectations. Nobody made a commercial touting the genius of my conference calls, but I have been told before that I handle those well at times. Managing people and products gets eyeballs when you something really great or incredibly wrong, but otherwise I’m lost in the shuffle. Now that I’m starting to get older, I’m fine with that.
I see the art in my work because the true nature of my role is to enable others’ art. If they are getting the praise they ultimately deserve, I can sleep well at night. Your artwork may require you to deflect praise to others as well, or just train yourself to wait for the right opportunity then bolt through the crack in the door boldly.
Either way, your art is there to be seen. Go find it, then tell me what it is. I would love to show you how amazing it is!
Tagged: agile, leadership, management, Product Management, project management, scrum
from WordPress http://ift.tt/1egi5DP