Brief update

No I have not disappeared, nor have I decided to stop blogging.  But as I mentioned in a recent post work and life have kept me incredibly busy lately and so I have not had much time for this more enjoyable and leisurely hobby of putting my thoughts in at least some semblance of order to share with the wider world.

I hope to get back to regular blogging soon; at work we are looking for a second person to help share the load that I carry as a product owner and that will help free up my brain space anyway so that I can think more about writing.  Life outside work may continue to be full but if work can settle back to be more sustainable pace then I should be able to carve out blogging time again.

I don’t know if I will realistically get back to my ambitious plan of posting 5 times each week on different topics.  I do have thoughts about leadership, pop culture, things I read, and being Agile running through my head regularly that I would welcome the chance to share and discuss – as well as questions about all kinds of things that weigh on my mind in varying degrees.  But finding the time to compose my thoughts that regularly has proven challenging, and it has not been clear to me this year how interesting my reflections on these matters have been to those who read my blog.

So I plan to get back to regular writing as soon as I can, but in the meantime I would welcome any feedback about my blog that you all want to share here or on Twitter (@asbiv).  As I have said before I already spend lots of time talking to myself and I started this blog hoping instead to talk with other people.  If a post goes up on WordPress and nobody reads it is it really there?  So if you have a moment please use the comments or find some other way of letting me know your thoughts on this blog.  Hopefully there will be more to read here soon.  Thanks.

Leadership and product teams

ASBIV:

Here’s another great blog from Steve Johnson. Important ideas about teamwork, leadership, proper staffing, and role clarity. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Under 10 by Steve Johnson:

“No one on a cohesive team can say, ‘Well, I did my job. Our failure isn’t my fault.’” ― Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

You’ve heard it many times before: “Come on. I need you to be a team player.”

Which means that you’ll be working late tonight—by yourself—to meet someone else’s commitment.

Sound familiar?

It seems too often that goals are in conflict. One department has not staffed appropriately so they rely on another group to fill the gaps. Sales people are focused on deals, Marketing is focused on awareness, Development is focused on delivering on time. What’s needed is a team of peers working together for a common goal; a team with mutual respect for each other’s skills.

In too many organizations, the leaders focus only on their objectives, protect their budgets, protect their headcounts—they act as chief advocates of their…

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R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy | Mr. Spock on Leadership

ASBIV:

Good ideas here and the links are worth following as well for more. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Applied Product Management Leadership:

tumblr_static_spockYes, I admit it … I am a bit of a science fiction junkie.  I spent many hours soaking in the original Star Trek series growing up.  So to hear the news that Mr. Spock/Leonard Nimoy has passed on is cause for reflection.

So, in honor of Mr. Spock and how he has influenced my views on leadership, following are a few of my favorite quotes along with some thoughts:

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Why not to be busy

Between battling a strong winter cold, digging out from a few snow storms, lots of activity in my family and personal life, and several frantic projects at work I have been incredibly busy lately – too busy for blogging and some days even too busy for tweeting.  When I tell people that I am busy the most common response I get is, “That’s great! Better to be busy than bored.”

The problem is that I disagree.  I don’t think it’s great to be busy; I don’t think it’s good at all.  And I don’t think the only alternative to busyness is boredom (any more than I think the only alternative to cynicism is naivety, but that’s a blog post for another day).  Especially for those who work with their brains and on teams, being busy often means not having time to think and collaborate effectively.  Creative solutions come from slack – unstructured and unhurried time to wrestle with a problem.  I am by no means the only person who thinks this way (here’s one link to a piece on the value of slack and even a manifesto on why it matters, and you can find plenty of others out there as well).  There are many folks at the company where I work who agree with this perspective (many of them on the technology side) even as there are a good number who don’t understand at all when I suggest that busyness isn’t a goal to which I aspire.

Instead of being busy I’m striving to be productive – and that means sometimes I’m not ‘striving’ at all but talking time to go for a run, read random web postings, chat with team mates about comic books, or grab an unplanned hour to talk about different potential solutions to a problem we are facing.  Sustained busyness tends to undermine true productivity rather than enhancing it.  Keeping people busy doesn’t mean they are usefully engaged at work – sometimes it keeps them from being focused as they bounce reactively among the competing urgent tasks on their plates.

Will some people take advantage of a culture that values slack rather than busyness?  Sure, but those kinds of people won’t be strong contributors in any work environment.  Most people want to make meaningful contributions, they just need the right environment in which to do so.  Creating a culture that values slack – one in which the statement, “I’m really busy,” elicits a response of, “that’s too bad, is there anything we can do to help free up more of your time?” – will lead to greater productivity and happier people.  This is why I try not to be busy, but in truth it’s not that simple.

Virtual UATs

One of the key elements of Agile product development is to get frequent feedback from users to validate that your development is headed in the right direction.  One way I have been experimenting with getting this feedback is through weekly 10 minute ‘product videos’ that I make every Friday.  In these recorded sessions I demonstrate new features, review the product roadmap and sprint backlog, and talk about the key benefits that our product offers.  These are aimed primarily at internal users, our sales and marketing team, and the support team that has to answer questions about the new features we are building.

So far these weekly videos are getting a good response.  The team enjoys a quick recap of what we have done both mid-sprint and at the end of each two-week cycle.  The recordings help me both communicate to the team efficiently and crystallize what the value of our new features is – if I can’t summarize why we built what we did in a few minutes then it might not have been worth doing.

How do you communicate to internal stakeholderes what your team is working on and why? These videos are of course not a substitute for real user-acceptance testing and product demonstration scenarios, but they do allow a wider audience to get a high-level view into what is happening with our core product.  At times these videos generate questions and feedback from folks I would not have been able to sit down with one-on-one.  I’d like to get deeper feedback from more people but in truth it’s not that simple.

More recommended reading

For my pop-culture blog this week I’m going to point you to another blog: http://tickledtk.com/2015/02/five-unread-comic-books-begging-to-be-read-fandom5/

And her blog entry is about 5 great new (or relatively new) comic books to check out.  I’ll try to move beyond comic books in my blogging entries soon but right now there are lots of good ones on my shelf, on my computer, and on my mind.  Enjoy.

Recommended reading

This week’s leadership post is really just a recommendation of a great resource.  This is in part because of the week I have been having which has kept me from writing something longer.  But it is also because I regularly enjoy the articles from this source.

If you’ve not reading http://www.strategy-business.com/ I encourage you to start.  I tweet quotes from almost everything I read on this site.  They have a wide range of articles and blogs on corporate culture, leadership development, business books, innovation and more.  Check it out if you get the chance.