My world has changed, for the better. When I first was introduced to Agile it was just a buzzword at a large company. “We need to be more agile. We need to set up agile teams.” Okay, sounds easy. Let me put together a project plan for that. It turns out that we were just paying lip service to an idea that someone told the CIO about. When we had to actually do agile, there was no support, no plan, no idea of what we were supposed to be doing. I had a team of 6 developers working on web projects that reported to me. A great opportunity to actual put an agile team in place, however were told to “Keep Calm and Carry On”
Fast forward a year and I’m now part of an agile company and working closely with an agile team. There are many differences, all of which take some getting used to.
Over the next several posts I will examine some of the major differences:
The thousands of dollars spent on attaining my PMP are not necessarily wasted, but they are diminishing in value for my future. Sure I can still talk the talk, but I no longer want to walk the walk. In the words of Pumbaa from the Lion King “You’ve got to put your behind in your past”, basically it is time to move forward with something that is better, stronger and faster in delivering results.
The website Fast Company has a great article on how to ask better questions and there are a lot of great takeaways (make sure you read the article to fully get the impact).
I have seen the first problem with questions all too often. People tend to ask multiple questions at once and you can only answer one at a time. In the skeptical community it is similar to “the Gish Gallop”, where there are too many things to answer. In my own experience I had a manager, John Slater, who was great at training you how to ask only one question at a time by simply stating “I will answer you last question first, and if we have time we will go back through the others”.
The other item I was trained in early on was getting comfortable with the silence. A great salesperson I worked with, Gail Mercer-McKay, would prep me before sales calls that she was going to ask a question and that it would become very uncomfortable as you wait for the answer. I was directed, rightly, not to say anything, but to let the person think through the question fully so they could answer. It was a difficult lesson to learn, however it paid dividends. One sales meeting we went to Gail had pre-warned me to let the silence linger when she asked the question. It felt like minutes ticking by. Dead silence. Finally the VP we were meeting with spoke up and we won the deal.
Finally, don’t fish. The quote from the article by Clive Thompson is spot on “The really ‘bad’ questions are leading ones — the questions where you’re fishing for a particular answer.”
Interesting to read that a ‘guru’ of consulting has had his own company fold. Forbes has a good (but long) article on what caused this multi-million dollars in revenue company to implode. I find it funny that when I was doing my MBA in the 90’s Porter was a GOD of strategy. We had to study his book (I actually own two) to understand the five forces and how they interact in the business world. I never found the applicability of his work in my own consulting career, but held him in high regard nonetheless. Now he joins the ranks of others in the industry who didn’t adapt to change and didn’t have a solid business model to help them weather the financial crisis that hit the world.
Great article over at Global Nerdy about a programmer hiring test that is over 20 years old called “Fizz Buzz”. A shocking 60% of the people that he interviewed FAILED this fairly simple test. As someone who hasn’t touched a programming language since C+ 20 odd years ago, or BASIC before that, even I was able to come up with a solution (no guarantees that it would have worked but I had the basic structure laid out like Joey’s solution) I can’t believe that this many people failed this test. He has some great conclusions (go read them) and I would have to agree, considering I have seen a lot of what he has suggested over the years.
First, make sure you have something to say. Then, follow these basic rules.
I recently attended a TEDGlobal conference. It was (as the veterans say) my ‘first’ TED and, while I was nervous about my own talk, I was thrilled to hear everyone else’s. Apart from some genuinely provocative ideas which have stuck with me ever since, this was an opportunity to watch some wonderful presentations and reflect on what makes a great talk.
Here are my top observations:
1. Stories always work.
Human beings remember things that matter. So lots of charts, slides, and numbers may be important, but they’re hard to retain. Memorable speeches build a connection between the speaker and the audience and stories–especially personal ones–are what make that connection last. Researcher Mina Bissell’s narrative about what led her to think differently about the structure of cancer took an abstract idea and made it real.
2. Images are meaningless–with one exception.
I saw a lot of slides and most of them I can’t even remember. But the few that I do I’ll remember forever. One of the best was journalist Andrew Blum’s picture of the physical reality of the Internet: a bunch of divers laying cables across the sea bed. Every time anyone mentions the cloud now, I know it isn’t a cloud, and it isn’t in the sky; it’s wires under our feet.
3. Enthusiasm isn’t everything.
I heard a number of very eager speakers whose content evaporated a few moments after they stopped talking. I even remember what they looked like and the fancy fonts in their slides, but not what they said. Information really does matter and however evangelical the delivery, substance beats style every time.
When you’re doing corporate presentations, the same rules apply. Stories–the rightstories–take facts out of the abstract and make them engaging and memorable. Images only work when they say something. And bouncy salesmanship evaporates faster than perfume. Even the biggest presentations are, at heart, great conversations.