Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Neumanagement Agile Blog Is Migrated!

It Is FinishedUnlike discovering that the TP has run out, we are happy for this to be finished! Thank you for your patience as we migrated the web site and blog to a new hosted solution. The new solution will allow for more control over the experience. We have some additional details to introduce, so look for a richer experience as we go forward. For now, other than the look, the biggest feature you will notice is the social media sharing options with each blog. If you read something you like or found valuable, please share it with your friends and colleagues. We welcome your comments, as well.

Happy reading.

D-Day Reflection of an Agile Coach

For some reason, I got to thinking more about D-Day this year than previous years. Both my grandfathers served the war effort, as did my grandmother Neumann. Intending no disrespect to the contributions of the Neumanns, my thoughts have turned to my Grandpa Dubie. He rarely spoke of the war. Much of what I know comes from a single conversation. I’m not sure why he felt like sharing that day, but I am glad he did.

Grandpa didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. As the story goes, he entered Europe the day after, by way of the beaches. His brother also served in the US Army, but with the war going on, he had no idea if his brother was part of the D-Day invasion. As he came ashore, he said he felt like he wanted to turn over every dead service member he passed, fearing that one was his brother. I can almost hear the emotion in his voice as I recall the telling of his story.

I don’t know how long after entering Europe that Grandpa earned his purple heart. He and his partner were digging their fox hole that day. It was Grandpa’s turn to dig, and he went into the hole head-first to make more room for his toes. That’s when the shell landed. The next part of the story was his flight back, calves badly wounded, and the army medical personnel removing the maggots that were being used to clean out the wound. His partner, and most of his squad, did not make it back. Had he not been burrowed into the foxhole making more room for his feet, he would have returned in a casket.

While he survived the physical trauma of the war, the emotional scars remained. Forty-five years after  returning to the US, he related a recurring nightmare; walking through a barn and having a German soldier jump down from the hay loft and repeatedly stab him in the chest. Grandpa said that he’d awoken pounding himself in the chest. I can only imagine the terror that must follow so many of our soldiers after their service.

So, what’s the point of this? First and foremost, it’s to share the story and honor just one of the millions of service members. Second, I think it’s important to maintain perspective. I have the pleasure of working as an Agile Coach. I work with people whose biggest complaint might be that they don’t have as much autonomy as they would like. Maybe their manager acts more like a boss, or the pace of their work doesn’t seem sustainable. Yes, those are things that can be improved. But, in the grand scheme of things, remember to be thankful that you’re not being shot at on a daily basis. And for those service members that do put themselves in harms way on a daily basis. Thank you.


To Inspire Teams, Forget Goals. Define Purpose.

Howard Schultz on PurposeWhat’s your team’s purpose? Is it a real purpose? Whose life is better because of what you do? What pain do you relieve? What new reality do you make possible? Who would notice if your team stopped delivering? If you easily answered those questions, congratulations. If not, you are like a lot of teams. Many don’t have a connection to a real purpose.

A lot of teams simply have goals. Maybe you are working to improve code coverage with automated tests. Maybe you want to increase code quality, reduce defects, or pair program. Those are worthwhile goals, but they are not purpose. Here is how I see the difference between goals and purpose:

Goals provide a target.

Purpose provides inspiration!

Failing to meet a goal leaves people feeling deflated.

Working for a real purpose gives a rallying point when times get tough!

Goals are used for evaluating individuals.

Purpose is about changing lives!

I hope you see the value in having purpose. For those teams that don’t know their purpose, how do you uncover it? Try these suggestions to help you identify your purpose:

Imagine –This is perhaps most appropriate when you are starting a new venture. How do you see the purpose of the organization? If you can be clear about the purpose early in your team or organization’s life, it can be used as a filter against which to test all the ideas and opportunities that come at you. It will help you say the most important word in the world: “No!” Having a well-defined purpose helps you stay focused and not get distracted by opportunities that don’t fit.

Interview customers – Talking to a customer can have a profound impact on how you see your team’s purpose. What did they struggle with that led them to your product or service? Ask them how you make their life better. Why do they use your product? If the product were no longer in existence, how would their life be less well off?

Visit your customers where they use your product – Interviews can be helpful, but sometimes people are too close to the situation to really see what is happening. When you see your customers “in the wild” you may end up with insights you didn’t have before, and notice behaviors they exhibit that they weren’t even aware of.

Business model canvas – The Business Model Canvas is a convenient way to collect information about how your business operates. There are two aspects of the canvas that apply to the topic of purpose; the Value Proposition and the Customer Segment portions. These will help you articulate what makes you unique from other groups, as well as identifying for whom you are providing that value.

Don’t be efficient about it – All too often, in the name of efficiency, I have seen too few people involved in activities like customer interviews, site visits, and wrestling with the business model canvas. I challenge you to engage the whole team in these activities. You  will get deeper insights when you compare what people saw and heard. You will definitely create a deeper connection between the team and the purpose they saw. Be inefficient, and prepare to be surprised at the positive results.

You might know, but your team might not. How can you help the team to really make the purpose part of their conscious?

Talk about it – Whether you are a team member or a leader, it is important to have a dialog about the purpose of your work. You might have said it before, but there is so much communication noise that it is likely people forgot, especially if it was lost in management mumbo jumbo. Just saying it once is not enough. Invite conversation with your team about the purpose. How might they see it differently? Talk about it, and then talk about it again. There is value in keeping it in the forefront.

Make it relatable by telling a story –Humans have, for millennia, told stories. We are wired to remember stories. PowerPoint slides with bullet points are no substitute for a true story of connection. Ditch the slide deck, and practice telling and rebelling the story. And remember, the good stories need to be told repeatedly. If you don’t have a good story to tell, go see your customers and find the story.

Make it visible – When somebody walks into your business or team area, what do they see? Is it obvious what your purpose is? If not, it is time to do some redecorating. Create visual reminders about the team’s purpose. Make them personal. Do not have eagles soaring over still lakes with motivational phrases on the bottom. Have something that is specific to your team and it’s purpose. Keep the visuals fresh. Don’t let them become wallpaper.

So, ask yourself: Does your team have a goal or a purpose? Goals are, perhaps necessary. Purpose is inspiring. If you find your team has only goals, dig deeper. Identify the purpose for your team’s existence, and unlock the possibilities!