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June 30, 2009

Agile, quick and maneuverable, flexible

I like the word ‘agile’ so when it showed up in an email, I was interested. As I read about the people who believe in Agile software development, I still liked what I was reading. It is civility in the workplace.

These are some points from the manifesto for Agile software development and the principles behind their work.
We value
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

We follow these principles
1. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
2. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
3. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
4. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
5. Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
6. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
7. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

This is from the group’s history
“…we all felt privileged to work with a group of people who held a set of compatible values, a set of values based on trust and respect for each other and promoting organizational models based on people, collaboration, and building the types of organizational communities in which we would want to work. At the core, I believe Agile Methodologists are really about "mushy" stuff; about delivering good products to customers by operating in an environment that does more than talk about "people as our most important asset" but actually "acts" as if people were the most important, and lose the word "asset". So in the final analysis, the meteoric rise of interest in -- and sometimes tremendous criticism of --Agile Methodologies is about the mushy stuff of values and culture.”

Manifesto for Agile Software Development, http://agilemanifesto.org/

June 25, 2009

How does one person shut down a discussion?

I’ve had several instances in person and via email lately that I mentally thought….that was a discussion stopper. I wanted to explain how one person can do that--shut down a discussion that had it continued would have had some benefit to solve a problem or move a group on to accomplishments.

This is from Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project---

They write about how you can give the impression of being unapproachable. One does it by appearing or being--

I think those attitudes are a good assessment of how one person can shut down a conversation.

Perhaps people who exhibit those attitudes ask what’s to be gained by discussion. I’d suggest
Uncovering perceptions
--all steps forward with civility.

What do you think?

June 23, 2009

Communication is supremely important in tough times

Fear of the unknown is a big fear. People are fearful that a pink slip is coming their way. Or that their organization’s next income and expense statement will be further out of line with the budget. Fears go on and on as far as the imagination stretches. Those fears create stress in individual lives and in the workplace.

My favorite point in an article ‘Manners matter even more in hard times’ in USA Weekend, June 19-21 issue, is “Communicate often”. Authors Peggy Post and P.M. Forni write “Nothing dispels anxiety in the workplace like the flow of candid information.” I think we’d all add: Nothing increases angst like the lack of communication. When there is no communication, gossip and speculation prevail. Productivity declines because people are under stress from all their fears.

Read ‘Manners matter even more in hard times’ which has these points
• Evaluate your behavior and anticipate the likelihood of rudeness.
• Don’t let money woes mess up your relationships.
• Watch out for others who may not be coping well.
• Be a prophet of boom, not doom.
• Make time to reassure others.
• Communicate often.

June 18, 2009

8 rules for leadership and management of virtual teams

Today’s interactive, social and communication tools make it easier for work teams to exist outside the traditional office environment. Coworkers can be virtual or in different physical offices in the same city, on opposite coasts or in different countries.

1. Establish team objectives
2. Remind each person that he or she is a part of the team working on a specific project
a. Each person knows his/her role and responsibilities
b. Anyone can ask a question; it’s open collaboration
3. Establish ground rules which are a code of conduct and help manage expectations
4. Agree on the right technology, obtain it and use it
5. Look for opportunities to socialize virtually but have face to face meetings to establish trust
6. Communicate clearly and often; if people aren’t contributing to the team, communicate more with them
7. Motivate team members
a. Short assignments of several weeks keep the team moving forward
b. Recognize those who are doing good work
8. Be considerate of one another
a. People are in different time zones
b. Cultural differences may be expressed in something as simple as preferred method of communication (telephone, chat, email)

Notes from June 8 presentation by Craig Wood, eXtension content director, and Henrietta Ritchie-Holbrook, eXtension multimedia design leader, at the ACE/NETC conference in Des Moines. ACE and NETC are two professional organizations of primarily communications and information technology workers in land-grant universities.

eXtension, http://www.extension.org, provides objective and research-based information and learning opportunities that help people improve their lives. eXtension is an educational partnership of 74 universities in the United States. It operates by virtual teams.

Sources Craig and Henrietta used
10 tips for managing virtual teams
The Five C’s Of Managing Virtual Teams

I’m struck by how similar this is to today’s teams with members working in the same building or same city. It’s civility in the workplace.

June 16, 2009

Work Shouldn’t Hurt

That’s what the blog from the Workplace Bullying Institute has right at the top.

Ruth and Gary Namie are untiring in their work researching, educating and combating bullying in the workplace. I attended a workshop they presented in Sioux City in Oct. 2007. Gary sent an email last week asking if I’d list his blog as a resource on my main page. That is a resounding YES.

Bullying is a terrifically complex problem
I have written about it in the past. It took only one comment on my blog from someone who was being bullied and crying out for help to convince me I should mention it occasionally for awareness but direct readers to experts.

The Workplace Bullying Institute blog started regular posts in Jan. 2009. See it at http://www.workplacebullying.org/

Gary’s email said he’d found my blog through Minding the Workplace, another fairly new blog by a law professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. The blog says the professor is founder of the New Workplace Institute (http://www.newworkplaceinstitute.org/), a research and education center promoting healthy, productive and socially responsible workplaces. See that blog at http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/

Bullying is health-harming
Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying often involves a misuse or abuse of power where the targets can experience difficulties in defending themselves.

If you are being bullied or know someone who is, please pass on the link to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

June 11, 2009

An expert in servant leadership lives in Des Moines

And I go hear him talk every chance I get. This week was another of those occasions. Jim Autry is an author, poet, consultant and retired president of the magazine group of the Meredith Corporation.

Long ago I read his bestseller Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership. I kept notes from that book in my planner for years because I thought his ideas made so much sense. I’ve now started The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance because this seems to be a time that kind of thinking is desperately needed.

Autry talked about being a servant leader Monday at a conference for communicators and IT professionals. After his speech, I heard many comment that they don’t see that kind of leadership today in their organizations.

Here’s what Autry writes in his introduction to The Servant Leader:
Leadership in service of others requires a great deal of courage. It was far easier to be the old top-down kind of boss..Just as business, or organizational life of any sort, is not about what’s efficient, it’s also not about what’s easy. It’s about what’s most effective. And what we’ve learned is that over the long-term, the old top-down, command-control ways don’t work as well as some managers would like to think. They dispirit and frustrate people; they suppress creativity; and they rob organizations of people’s best efforts.”

The essence of a servant leader
A servant leader has these characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others and building community.

The Wikipedia entry on servant leadership concludes with this:
“Unlike leadership approaches with a top-down hierarchical style, Servant Leadership instead emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the individual is a servant first, making the conscious decision to lead in order to better serve others, not to increase their own power. The objective is to enhance the growth of individuals in the organization and increase teamwork and personal involvement.”

A challenge to my readers
This summer, take some time to read. I’d recommend these two books by Autry. I believe anyone can be a leader and a servant leader is the best kind. I’ll write more about Autry’s thinking in later posts but it would be fun to have you reading along with me. Book club discussions always broaden our thinking as we listen to what others emphasize and their personal stories that relate to the book. Maybe you won’t post comments but you can compare what you thought vs. what I highlight. I’ll do some interlude posts to give you folks time to find the books and start reading.

June 04, 2009

Is your funny bone broken?

Humor may be one of best antidotes to stressful situations, says David Sobel, M.D., in an article ‘Good Humor, Good Health’. He says laughter needs to be a regular part of your life to get its full benefit. Laughter breaks the ice, builds trust and draws us together into a common state of well-being.

The doctor offers ways to use humor to stay healthy.

Laugh at yourself
“If you expect to do everything right all of the time, then you can't afford to have a sense of humor. But if you can allow yourself the inevitable mistakes and stupidities that we all make, then you can laugh at yourself. Being able to laugh at yourself helps you to accept that your shortcomings don't really matter that much. The people who are able to laugh at themselves have a much stronger sense of self-worth and higher self-esteem than those who can't.”

Hang out with happy people
Sobel says, “Make sure there are people in your life whom you find it fun to be around - ones who lighten the atmosphere and make you feel good about yourself. Often people who aren't especially witty as a rule can be razor-sharp when they get together with someone who inspires them, amuses them, or just loosens them up.”

Expose yourself to humor
One way is to post what amuses you. Currently on my work cubicle walls….
--a Maxine cartoon that says “Some days the best thing about my job is that my chair spins.”

--something I found and typed up in large letters to enjoy:
“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.”

--and of course a Dilbert cartoon, mine is about project management since I do some of that.
In part, “Phase one will be unwarranted optimism supported by delusions of competence…Resources will be allocated based on misinformation and favoritism.”

How can you look at these and not smile during the work day?

What do you have posted or what will you post today to delight your funny bone?

Laughter contributes to good health as well as civility. Read the full article at http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.asp?lk=P8&Id=193.

June 02, 2009

It’s a tough time for trustworthiness

In uncertain times, it’s difficult to decide which individuals, businesses or organizations you can trust.

TrustedAdvisor Associates, http://trustedadvisor.com/, says you can determine your trust quotient by four factors:
Credibility is about what you say, and how believable it is to others.
Reliability is about your actions, and how dependable you appear.
Intimacy is about how safe people feel sharing with you.
Self-orientation refers to who you’re focused on—yourself, or others.

The first three build trustworthiness
Self-orientation lowers it. So you add the first three and divide by self-orientation to find your trustworthiness.

The understated factors in this equation are communications and civility
The lack of communication or poorly written and spoken communication, reduces your trustworthiness. This is why you hear people talking about transparency. I wrote about this in November, in part… Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, spoke about leadership and power. She talked about business leaders needing to agree to transparency, of being accountable to not only shareholders but customers, employees and suppliers…..(I added) People will put their heart and soul into projects when they understand how their work fits into overall goals, when they feel their opinions are valued, when they are part of the building process, when they know what others are doing. That is transparency.

Civility shows in your sensitivity to others, trying to think how others will interpret your words and actions. That’s what I’d emphasize more in this equation.

What is your trust quotient?
The site offers a 20 question quiz you can take and provides suggestions for improvement. I took it and was struck by how I’d rate myself vs. how others would rate me. Give it a try and see what you think.

The trust quiz is at http://trustedadvisor.com/trustInstitute.trustQuotient/