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Confucius Says “You inspire others with your principles.”

Published by Christopher Daily on August 27th, 2013 - in Business Musings, IMO

Ok, I don’t really believe Confucous actually said this.

So we are at our Indiana house, bored as we watch movers pack up our life’s treasures. I stumble across a box of stuff (junk) and find messages from Chinese fortune cookies that my wife has saved. I am not sure why she saved them, but don’t dare to ask. As I was idly looking at these gems of wisdom, the message above caught my eye.

There are a lot of famous leadership phrases that get tossed around by managers. I am as guilty as anybody of repeating something I have heard. Most of the time, I don’t even know who the originating author was, or what the context was. So why should the message from a fortune cookie be any different?

Let’s say it again: “You inspire others with your principles.” When was the last time you thought about your principles or ethics? When it benefitted you?

Are principles and ethics borne in our DNA or are they learned behavior? I don’t have any idea. My daughter told me that it might be both. I believe people around us learn best by observation.

Our learning starts immediately after birth. YouTube is filled videos of babies that are mimicing adults. As we grow older, we continue to learn by watching those around us in a variety of situations. Our observations of our parents, grandparents, family, friends, coaches, and even TV provide ample opportunities for us to learn the underlying principles. Over time, our own version of principles in terms of right and wrong are permanently engrained in our brain. As we age, we are less influenced by those around us. Because principles get embedded in our brain early, it is often difficult to modify them later. The term “They are set in their ways!” is used to explain why some people won’t change.

As we interact in our daily lives, others are observing us. Our sons and daughters learn about relationships by watch their parents. Our co-workers learn about principles in the work place by watching their peers. Leaders establish the bar for what principles will be followed in their organizations by the principles they demonstrate. I intentionally left the word “communicate” out of the last sentence.

Remember: Our actions speak louder than our words.

Thanks for coming in today.

A Must Read: The Present by Spencer Johnson

Published by Christopher Daily on June 14th, 2013 - in Blog, Business Musings, IMO, Uncategorized

the_presentI was cleaning out my closet and I found a book that I thought was worth sharing.  I first read The Present when Iwas in the midst of one of the many corporate mergers that I have been through.  Spencer Johnson, the author of The Present,  is also the author of another must-have business read:  Who Moved My Cheese?   The Present is an engaging quick read.  The narative story telling style pulls you in, keeping you entertained as you continue. 

As you have figured  out by now, the fable told in The Present starts with a concept of “Being” in the present.   This shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.  The concept has been ingrained in all of us since we were children, starting with our progression from elementary school through college.  Students have to pass first grade to continue on to second grade.  Later in life, the concept is reinforced by pay increases, bonuses, and new job opportunities typically go to those who are performing right now.  There are exceptions, of course.  Occasionally, you may see someone paid for their potential only to not produce.  The most notable ones that come to mind are CEOs and professional athletes.  Ignoring those examples, focusing on what the tasks at hand is critical to any one that want to be happy.  My favorite quote out of the book is “When You Focus On What Is Right In The Present Moment, It Makes You Happier, Today.”

While the title implies that you should focus on The Present, the topics of the past and future are covered as well.  I won’t spoil the book for you.  I do think this is a must read.

Thanks for coming in today.


Dealing with Easter Eggs

Published by Christopher Daily on August 20th, 2012 - in Blog, Branding Yourself, Business Musings, IMO

I can’t believe it has been over a year since I wrote my post about Easter Eggs(EEs). A lot has happened. Most of it good, though I have found a few EEs. Here is the good:

  1. I took a job with FNF. I think it is a great opportunity.
  2. I have met some really great folks at FNF.
  3. We have trained about 150 teammates at FNF in Scrum.
  4. I finally got to live near the beach in Fenandina Beach, FL.
  5. I walked/ran the Gate River Run without collapsing from a heart attack. I am still paying for this though.
  6. I got to go some Jaguars games. (I am a football fan, so seeing a game was positive.  The Jags just happened to be playing.)

Here are some of the Easter Eggs I have found:

  1. Finding out that your team has DEC COBOL and Clipper applications you support.
  2. 120 MPH windows are required if you want to upgrade that house near the beach.
  3. Some of my teammates have been rebadged four times in the last six years or so.
  4. Technology is moving forward at a faster pace than I thought.
  5. I have Bugs Bunny Syndrome (BBS).
  6. The Indianapolis Colts run as a premier NFL team is over.
  7. Payton Manning is a Denver Bronco.  Seeing all the #18 Bronco Jerseys in the Denver airport was a killer.
  8. Turning 51 has been tougher than turning 50.

Three out of eight Easter Eggs are work related, and can be overcome.  Nice balance.  Overall, more positive than negative.  I say it was a pretty good year.  What do you think?

Thanks for coming in today.


Yeah – Fifty is the new Thirty.

Published by Christopher Daily on August 17th, 2012 - in Branding Yourself, Business Musings, IMO, Uncategorized

As some of you know, I like to read the blogs of other Agile thinkers. I also follow some of the bloggers in the marketing/social media space. Most of you have not ever heard of Kyle Lacy or Dan Zarrella. However, you may know the name Seth Godin. I have been reading Seth’s blog for the last couple of years, which has lead me to buy a couple of his books as well. So right up front, IMO, I think some of Seth’s posts are purely created to get some idea out that has been clogging up his brain. However, occasionally, there is one that really strikes home.

Fifty is the new thirty is a post that stuck with me. Maybe because I am fifty-one, though I would like to believe it is more likely due to my feelings about getting older in the work environment. I see a lot of my friends who start a job, get comfortable, and then are shocked when the rug is pulled out from underneath them. What my friends don’t realize is:

  • Unless things change dramtically, our 401ks and IRAs are not going to grow at the same rate they did in the past.
  • Events outside of our control will continue to dominate the landscape for the forseeable future.
  • At fifty, we will work for another three companies before we retire.
  • Our parents will have used up all our inheritance.

So what do we do about it? Have a big pity party for ourselves? Yes, it sucks. I hear ya. It’s not fair.

Nope. That’s not the American way. I agree with Seth’s points. As a fifty year-old, I have seen a lot.

  • 15% raises with 20% inflation.
  • Gas prices going up 20%
  • Multiple economic busts
  • a laptop the size of a brief case weighing 50 pounds be replaced by an iPad

As the end of the baby boomers, the odds on us retiring at 70 are not very good. So, what do we do about it? I am going to continue to do exactly what I have been preaching: KEEP LEARNING!

How am I going to do that? I am going to keep trying to stay young. Not just buying an iPad or an xbox, but learning to surf, kayak, and sail board. Walking races, and enjoying my treadmill. I am going to continue to read technical books, and continue to spout off on a blog.

Enough about me. What are you going to do for the next 20 or 30 years? Mope?
Thanks for coming in today.

What the heck am I doing?

Published by Christopher Daily on August 14th, 2012 - in Branding Yourself, Business Musings, IMO

This morning, I was reminded that I have been absent from the blogsphere. I am on my way to Agile 2012 in Dallas, when digging out my iPad, I found a flyer from the Scrum Alliance Spring Gathering. For those of you that are not in software business, these are two of the best conferences on the Agile software approaches.

Finding the old flyer reminded me thta i have fallen into one of my old traps: Bugs Bunny Syndrome (BBS).

Before I describe Bugs Bunny Snydrome, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. For those of you youngsters from the Thundercats and Transformers eras, Bugs Bunny is a cartoon character that was prominent in the 60’s and 70’s who’s main adversary was a daft hunter named Elmer Fudd. Occasionally, Bugs would go into his rabbit borough and emerge in another place. Sometimes, it was where Bugs intended to go. Other times, Bugs took a wrong turn in Abluquerque and ended up somewhere other than where he intended. Bugs didn’t follow the map and didn’t have landmarks to guide him.

So BBS is the ability to go into a borough and emerge someplace else. In my case, I have been boroughing at FNF. Good thing right? Focus on the task at hand. The challenge is that I have been so focused on what we have been doing at Fidelity that I have not been doing a good job at staying current. Not only have I not been pushing my thoughts and ideas out into the world, but I have fallen behind in my reading as well.

I have found that you are never really cured from BBS. My relapses occur typically when I start a new job or a new adventure in my personal life. I have found that I can combat this syndrome by a couple of simple actions:

  • Set a fixed time each day where I read. Reading while on the treadmill is my favorite. Another good alternative is to stop at your favorite coffee shop.
  • Attend an industry event. In my case, I am focused on Scrum and Agile.
  • When ideas pop in your head, write them down. This technique works for many authors and artists. Try it. It works.

Hopefully, these steps will help you keep BBS in remission. While you can never truly get BBS cured, you can at least keep it under control.
Thanks for coming in today.

Six Communication Opportunities in Scrum

Published by Christopher Daily on July 28th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

In my last post about Scrum ceremonies, I stated that there are communication opportunities in Scrum.  At the time, I didn’t elaborate on what those opportunites are.  So, here are four examples of communication opportunities in Scrum:

  1. Sprint planning meeting – In the first half of the sprint planning meeting, the Product Owner works with the team to identify the user stories that are right for the sprint product backlog.  As they work through the process, the “why” begins to weave it’s way into the conversation.  The Product Owner will deliver the “why” as part of the conversation.  Most of the people I have coached are motivated by the “why”.  The second half of the sprint planning meeting is devoted to the team for the purpose of self-organizing around the work.  In addition to communicating with each other, the team may ask the Product Owner for further clarification on any ambiguities with the user stories.
  2. Daily standups – each team member communicates their status on a daily basis, along with any issues or roadblocks that may exist.
  3. Sprint Review – As the end of the sprint, the product owner and the stakeholders have an opportunity to view the outputs of the sprint.  As a part of the demonstration of the new functionality, the Product Owner and Stakeholders provide feedback about the functionality.
  4. Sprint Retrospective – The Sprint team has an opportunity to discuss what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they can fix.  The communication that results is a basis for the next sprint, as the list of potential improvements should be included in the next sprint planning meeting.

There are two more opportunities that most folks don’t  realize.  Using a couple  of tools to estimate can provide unique communication opportunities.  There are two versions of poker parties that are just as important as the Scrum ceremonies.

  1. Planning poker parties provide an excellent opportunity for the team and the product owner to communicate about the complexity of stories, along with the opportunity to get out of the day to day grind.  I recommend treating this as a fun day.  Buying lunch pays for itself as the team often will work through lunch.
  2. Business Value Poker parties are often overlooked as an opportunity to communicate, though the team is not usually involved.  BV Poker can facilitate communication amongst the toughest group:  The Stakeholders.  Stakeholders usually consist of a variety of users from various disciplines.  Some of the disciplines might include accounting, finance, IT, marketing, and the actual users.  Surprisingly, I have found this group often does not communicate with each other effectively.   Different actual users do not often communicate with each other either.  Even though their ultimate goals are the same, their own interest often get in the way of real communication.  Playing BV Poker , while important, pales in comparison to the benefit of having Stakeholders discuss their differences  under the guise of discussing why they assigned a particular business value to a particular story.
If you skip the Scrum ceremonies, you miss chances to communicate that often won’t happen any other way.  So, don’t skip the ceremonies if you don’t want to skip the chance to communicate.
Thanks for coming in today.

You’ll be sorry you skipped the scurm ceremonies.

Published by Christopher Daily on July 25th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

My son and his band mates came to visit me, using my apartment as a base for shows around Florida. One of their upcoming shows is about 5 hours away. I offered to pay for a hotel room so they wouldn’t have to drive all night to get back. David gracefully refused. What he said next really resonated with me. “If we stay in a hotel you paid for, its not the same. Driving all night, sleeping in our car, and hanging out together are the things we will remember.”

It reminded me of the ceremonies of Scrum.  If we skip the ceremonies, we miss the experience and, more importantly, the benefits.  The first thing a lot of teams do is modify or eliminate the ceremonies. How do we know what works and what doesn’t until we do them for a number of times? It is in our nature to focus on getting to the end result while overlooking the journey.

  • Daily Standups can interrupt our busy schedule. Missing one won’t hurt?
  • Sprint Reviews don’t need to be completed every time. We have nothing to show.
  • We need a manager to run these meetings.
  • Standup meetings are too short.
  • The team is not qualified to test without QA directing the testing activities.

When I hear these objections, it usually comes from a Scrum-butt-er. Viewing the ceremonies as part of a checklist of inconveniences that get in the way of doing the real work (coding, testing, or whatever). Why we perform the scrum ceremonies and the benefits we derive are more important than the ceremony itself.

The communication derived by the scrum ceremonies is invaluable and the biggest benefit achieved.  Communication is rampant in Scrum, with opportunities throughout.  The effects of a missed opportunity may not be realized initially, but will show up eventually.  Hopefully, it won’t be too late.

Thanks for coming in today.


Support an Agile/Scrum Transition????

Published by Christopher Daily on July 14th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

At the start of each Agile/Scrum engagement, I always introduce individually to the Scrum Team Members, the Product Owner, and interested Stake Holders. Invariably, I come across a few folks who admit they are going to wait to see if the organization is just going through the motions of adopting Agile or Scrum.

I am always amazed when I hear the words come out of their mouth. What are they thinking?  Scrum is not a passing fancy, but viewed as an opportunity to turn around the organization.  There are really only three possible results when an enterprise is adopting Agile/Scrum.

  1. Failure – The group reverts back to it’s old ways.
  2. Scrum, but – The group adopts some Scrum principals, but does not realize all the benefits.
  3. Success –  The group adopts Scrum, realizing the benefits and joys of Scrum.
Success is the only outcome that changes the organization.  Not participating in attempting to fix a bad situation is not acceptable.  Not being onboard also puts the employee at risk of being labeled an “objectionist”.  Worse yet, you might actually be told you are part of the problem.
Thanks for coming in today.

Redefining The Term: Easter Egg

Published by Christopher Daily on July 12th, 2011 - in Business Musings, IMO

Have you ever taken over some new responsibilities only to discover little problems or issues? As you dig into the root of the problem, was it is much bigger than you first thought? I have called these little surprises Easter Eggs. Why Easter Egg? My kids are past the phase where they want to hunt for Easter Eggs. When they were little, we would have an Easter Egg hunt at my parents house every Easter. The kids were good, but they rarely found all the eggs that we had hidden.

Over the course of the following year, we would find some of the orphaned Easter Eggs. We would see them shooting out the mower discharge, step on them while trimming the bushes or raking leaves. Sometimes, we would find the money eggs, or eggs with toys inside. We would also find rotten candy or a rotten hard boiled egg inside, hence the term Easter Eggs. You never knew what you were going to get when you opened the egg.

I looked up the term “Easter Egg” using the authority on all things internet, Google, and I found two definitions for easter eggs:

When I checked Wikipedia, I found two defintions for Easter Egg: the traditional Easter Egg, and Easter Egg (Media).

The Easter Egg (Media) is defined to be an intentional hidden message, in-joke or feature in a work such as a computer program, web page, video game, movie, book or crossword. I would like for Wikipedia to add another definition – Easter Egg (Life), which let’s refer to as EEL. The defintion for EEL is a surprise problem or issue that has been hidden by someone else, which when discovered, pleasantly or unpleasantly surprises the finder.

It is important to remember that Easter Eggs are almost always uncovered long after they have spoiled. Lets look at a few examples:

  1. An employee turns in his resignation because his previous manager promised a promotion and salary increase.
  2. A client protests when they receive an invoice for services that their project manager told them were free.
  3. You get a deliquency call from a new vendor, only to find out one of your employees has signed an agreement that they should not have.
  4. A not-to-exceed project you just inherited has billed all the services revenue, and you still have 25% to go till completion.
  5. Your Microsoft partnership expires in two days, and you don’t have all the individual certifications that are required.
  6. You find out your husband of 25 years has a secret love child from 13 years ago, and you didnt find out till after he left his post as Govenor. (Now, before I get some hate mail, I am on Maria’s side)

All of the situations above can be resolved, though some may be real difficult (think #6). What do you do when you find an Easter Egg? When we find a traditional Easter Egg, we typically throw away the rotten egg. If we find money inside the egg, which rarely happens, we put the money in our pocket. The only difference for Easter Eggs we find in business is that we can’t always throw away the rotten eggs. Sometimes, we will have to deal with the rotten surprise, whether we created it or not.

Having to deal with the Easter Eggs is not always as bad as it sounds. Often, you are given leeway to resolve the issue, while getting some recognition as a team player.

I am sure we have all found Easter Eggs. The opportunity is how you deal with them. What Easter Eggs have you found? Click here and let me know.
Thanks for coming in today.

New Scrum Term: Chig

Published by Christopher Daily on July 6th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

I would like to suggest a new term to be considered in Scrum: Chig. So what is a Chig? Before I explain what a Chig is, I should probably give you a little background. Within Scrum, their are only three types of members of the team: Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the team. These team members are often referred to as pigs, as they are committed. Agile/Scrum Cartoon about a chicken and a pig.

All others are parties are called chickens, referring to the fact that they are involved, but not committed. For those of you not familiar with the joke, click here to see the original pig and chicken cartoon.

So, what is a Chig? A Chig is a term that we have started using for those folks who say they are a chicken, but act as though they are a pig. What kind of things do Chigs do?

  1. Though not part of the team, Chigs make assignments to members of the Scrum team.
  2. Though not part of the team, Chigs make promises to deliver functionality to users.
  3. Though not part of the team, Chigs ask questions and offer advice during standups.
  4. Though not part of the team, Chigs provide status progress updates to other Chigs.

As we discussed this in our latest Standup, I pointed out that I am guilty of occasionally stepping over the line moving from the chicken side of the line to the pig side, making me a Chig. As I talked about being a Chig, I could see a couple of self-proclaimed Chickens looking at the floor. As the Scrum/Agile coach, I didn’t have to say a word.

I did talk to one of my fellow Chigs later. Bill “Chig” pulled me aside later and admitted that he was in fact a Chig. We laughed about being Chigs, and agreed to call each other out when we were slipping into the Chig role.

Keeping each other honest is critical in Scrum and Agile projects.

Thanks for coming in today.


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