Thursday, September 29, 2016

LeadingAgile Podcast - Working with Distributed Teams with Jann Thomas and Adam Asch

Whether you are separated by one floor in the same building or thousands of miles, working with distributed teams is never an easy. But for most of us, it’s the reality of how we work now. In this podcast, LeadingAgile’s Jann Thomas and Adam Asch share tips for how to get better results from your distributed teams and remote team members.

Show Notes

08:00 Introductions
01:21 Topic Intro
02:22 What are the common issue you see with Distributed Teams
02:37 Making people aware of your schedule the you are remote
05:51 Understanding your own best way of working and dealing with it when it is not in sync with your team
08:11 Working with people in different time zones
10:06 The time zone problem
11:14 - Sending team members to a physical location to build rapport and knowledge transfer
12:17 Helping remote team members see themselves as part of a team instead of adversaries
13:25 Cultural Training
14:05 When you’re in the same building but on different floors
15:08 Meeting up in the middle
16:22 The importance of meeting up for the Daily Standup
17:28 They’re home, but are they actually “working”?
18:20 Working for a virtual company
19:13 Making intentional choices to stay connected to your team
20:00 Suggestions for the team members who don’t want to participate
22:21 Better technology for better communication
23:22 The SM  and PO working together to create a communicative, collaborative culture
25:10 Getting in touch with Jann and Adam for more tips

If you’d like to reach out to Jann or Adam with follow up questions here is how to contact them:

Jann Thomas

Adam Asch

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Alistair Cockburn - Designing Quality of Life

Writing the introduction to a podcast interview with Dr. Alistair Cockburn is not a simple thing. He is the co-author of the Agile Manifesto and the author of numerous books on Agile, Use Cases and Object Oriented Programming. There is also his work with Crystal and now with the Heart of Agile. He’s contributed a significant body of material around the topic of how we work. While this interview touches on most of the above, the primary focus of the interview is around a simple question with a complex answer: How can you design a lifestyle that is based on continually examining and enhancing the quality of your life.

The interview is a long one, but is filled with volumes of advice and wisdom on how to build a professional life that supports the level of quality you want to achieve in your personal life. The information will be especially valuable for anyone working on consulting. For those who are pressed for time, I’ve created detailed show notes below so you can jump to a specific portion if you need to and you can find them here: (because they exceed the text limit for a Soundcloud podcast).

If you would like to learn more about Alistair Cockburn, check out
If you’d like to follow Alistair on Twitter, you can find him at
If you’d like to learn more about Heart of Agile, check out
If you’d like to check out the Facebook Live conversation between Alistair and Nic Sementa, try

Show Notes
00:08 Interview Starts
01:10 Topic Introduction - Designing your life with intention to create quality of life
02:27 Overview of the trajectory of Alistair’s professional life and consulting background
02:58 Alistair’s advice for maintaining quality of life as a consultant
03:44 The jobs you can’t take if you want to maintain quality of life (especially if your focus is family)
05:11 How do you become an old married consultant? If consulting is so great, why do people quit?
05:41 Rule #1 Limiting your travel / Manage your budget
06:40 Resigning from the full time travel gig and making sure they can’t make an example of you
09:10 The smart way to look for a new job
09:44 How much you need to have saved to look for a new consulting gig
10:56 Why you need to pace yourself during the job search
11:22 Getting published and planning to be in the rejection business
13:28 Coping with the ego blow of getting your soul rejected
14:24 Applying this advice to getting new clients
15:14 Landing the first consulting gig teaching about Object Oriented Design
16:08 How do you survive the first days as a consultant?
16:53 Driving for lifestyle
17:43 Consciously making choices for the lifestyle you want to achieve
18:22 Asking yourself “Does this enhance the quality of my life or not?” and applying it to all aspects of your life
19:27 Celebrating the things you do choose to do
19:50 The infinite potential workload vs. the finite number of plates you can juggle
21:22 The number of things you can’t get around to is infinite (no matter how much you do)
22:31 Do less to get more joy/quality/everything
22:45 Bookshelves, kids and divorce
23:10 18 years of being a married consultant
23:55 Do five things with job instead of 15 things with less joy - and learning to be conscious of your choices.
24:15 Going to the buffet
25:25 “The amount of food I did not touch was infinite”
25:48 Practicing “I would have everything, but if I just have this, I can have the best of the best
26:00 Budgets - Figuring out how much you need to put food on the table, how much for gravy and how much you need to declare greed and quit for the rest of the year.
28:15 Setting an upper limit for how much you want to make and staging work with financial goals
28:45 Knowing when “anything else in my life is more important than the next job”
29:25 What you need to live - take your base number, multiply by 2.5 and find your greed limit
30:10 When you hit the greed limit, do you actually have to stop (even if you don’t want to)?
31:05 Not operating from fear - if you are getting on the plane… why?
32:00 Teaching yourself to say no, limiting travel and limiting conferences
32:40 When they call, and they want ONLY you, and they offer gobs of money…
34:05 Saying “Yes” when you should say “No”
34:35 Establishing a writing practice
35:10 A question about maintaining routine while traveling
36:00 Alistair’s life/phase changes
36:50 More advice on how to maintain a healthy life/marriage when you are a traveling consultant - set up a rhythm
38:40 Self-care while traveling (Alistair and Nic Sementa on FB live)
39:10 Life in the hotel
39:50 Air BnB so you can cook and maintain a healthy diet while traveling
41:17 Recap on maintaining diet while traveling
41:40 Alistair’s phase change - moving to France to practice his French
42:45 A brand new life in Brisbane playing volleyball for Christmas
44:14 In case you are thinking “My life can’t do that…”
44:57 How to get a job working in Zurich at IBM Research… but taking a chance and applying
47:31 Writing the Agile Manifesto in Snowbird, why it worked and why it was different than many other attempts to try and write something that would change the world
48:43 What made the running of the workshop in Snowbird so good? Generous Listening
49:10 Seventeen Alpha-types who all chose to be quiet and listen
50:18 “I’m Steve Mellor, I’m a spy”
52:46 Recap of Alistair’s tips in the interview so far
  • 50% travel cap
  • 1/2 week travel every week
  • Set max and min income target
  • When you hit max target, anything is more important than the next gig
  • Write some books to fill up the home time
  • 2 conferences a year
  • Drip feed for the clients
  • The only thing that makes things impossible is not being willing to take a chance
  • Generous listening
  • Constantly pursue areas of interest that improve quality of life
55:16 living below the poverty line and being okay with your quality of life
55:43 The three income levels according to Alistair Cockburn and understanding how much you need to feel survive or feel wealthy
59:46 Radical Simplification
60:38 The Heart of Agile, Shu Ha Ri and Kokoro
62:20 Living an improvised lifestyle
62:55 Agile has become over decorated
63:05 Scrum has become Shu level and it was designed at Ri level
63:32 The Heart of Agile - Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve
64:40 Kokoro - Heart of Essence
65:20 The top of performance is Ri, transitioning to teaching is Kokoro or Radical Simplification
66:25 The new lifestyle - looking for radical simplification in everything
67:08 Maximizing your freedom through simplification
71:34 Do you need someone at Ri or Kokoro to be guided towards simplification?
72:30 Can you transform to Heart of Agile at the organizational level?
73:20 Questioning collaboration across the organization to set a baseline you can use for transformation to Heart of Agile
74:44 If you move the needle on the collaboration, everything improves
75:31 Going back to the basics of being able to deliver incrementally
76:28 You don’t need a specialist, just people who are open
76:42 The next Heart of Agile Conference - Pittsburgh in April 2017
77:47 Wrapping up

Friday, September 09, 2016

Agile 2016 - Lyssa Adkins - Agilists as Agents of Social Revolution

Agile 2016 - Lyssa Adkins - Agilists as Agents of Social Evolution from LeadingAgile on Vimeo.

Lyssa Adkins, Co-Founder and President at Agile Coaching Institute, led a two-part Audacious Salon session at Agile 2016 that focused on the idea of Agilists being Agents of Social Evolution. In this interview Lyssa shares the background work that led her to this great question and the work that she has been doing to explore it further, along with developing a deeper understanding of what mission we, as Agents of Social Evolution are called to, and what our responsibility is towards the people and systems we interact with.

If you’d like to learn more about Lyssa and the work she is doing at the Agile Coaching Institute, check out

And you can follow Lyssa on Twitter at

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

How to Write a User Story for Marketing w/ Nic Sementa and Alistair Cockburn

Nic Sementa from the Agile Marketing Academy joins me in this podcast to share his thoughts on how to craft User Stories that will work for marketing. Nic's thoughts and opinions on this topic are heavily influenced by his marketing background, which, as he points out in the interview, is a little unique since most of the conversations on the topic are led by agile practitioners.
During the interview Alistair Cockburn joined in the conversation to offer his expert advice and guidance on the subject. Alistair is one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto, the creator of the Crystal methods, leading voice on Use Cases and the man behind the Heart of Agile. (There is lots more - you can find it all here.)

Show Notes:
00:38 Nic’s background and the challenges faced by Marketing that Agile could help with
4:27 Putting Agile together with Marketing
5:52 User Stories from a Marketers perspective
6:52 The historical challenges involved with “marketing” to the customer as opposed to engaging directly with the customer to find out what they need
8:00 How coercing your customer to buy leads to the marketing equivalent of technical debt
8:50 Googling Agile Marketing
9:20 The corporate world is high school with ashtrays
10:00 Why marketing needs a new language framework for Agile
10:57 Apology to the Band Geeks (which Dave is)
11:30 Revenue impact of implementing Agile Marketing Techniques
11:52 How User Stories change in Agile Marketing
12:33 Personas and more
13:33 Developing a deeper understanding of the User and his/her pain points
14:03 MadMen in Reverse is not going to help you understand the “ideal customer”
15:14 Marketing Research
16:10 There is no such thing as offline marketing
17:52 Recap of the Marketing User Story Guidance
18:57 Let’s get al Skynet with this thing!
20:00 Special Guest Alistair Cockburn on Agile Marketing User Stories
25:55 Abstract thinkers vs. concrete thinkers
28:05 Alistair’s visual grammar version of User Stories
35:33 Where to learn more about the Agile Marketing Academy and how to reach Nic

Some Links:
For more on the Agile Marketing Academy you can go to their Certification site or send them an email.

You can reach Nic on Twitter @nicsementa