Categories
General Learning Reflections

Gaining a Sense

My mother got a second cochlear implant last year and it was turned on last week. The first involved shaving a good bit of her head, much more invasive surgery. This time was much better, outpatient surgery, with a small incision.

Here you can see and hear the difference between her first, 20 years ago, and her new one.

I’ll say my mother is nothing short of amazing. She had never heard, her entire life, and even with the limited capabilities of her first implant, and despite being warned she’d never understand speech, she persevered. She spent hours studying, listening to audiobooks reading along, to *learn* to understand speech. If that’s not being a learn-it-all, I don’t know what is.

And… data makes a difference. The difference between the first and second implant, for me, is the difference between a single instrument and an orchestra.

Below you can hear the before and after comparison – what she heard with her first implant and what she can hear now. This difference is striking.

See the original post here.

Categories
General

Simple Pleasures Forgotten to Remember

I grew up making mix tapes off of the radio. As a teenager I was lucky to enjoy the technological advance of CDs.

As a passionate music lover, I built a comprehensive collection of CDs of all kinds of music. I spent hours burning albums to my computer, and as iTunes and iPhone rose in popularity, used them well. Then with Pandora and Spotify, I occasionally used them to find new music. I have a wide taste in music, so I’ve really loved discovering new music this way.

I tried a subscription to Apple Music for a bit but felt disappointed with the algorithm. I’ve been a loyal Spotify subscriber for a few years now.

Today Spotify notified me that one of my favorite artists, Andrew Bird had a new album, My Finest Work Yet.

Would I like to play it? Well sure. I hadn’t listened to Bird in a while, why not?

We were on our way to the grocery store and my daughter doesn’t like listening to books or podcasts in the car (or ever… are we even related!?) so I opened it up and played it through my car as we drove.

“Wow, this is a good collection of songs,” I thought. “I like them. A great soundtrack for a lazy Saturday.”

And then I had a stunning thought.

When was the last time I listened to an album like this? I could not remember.

An unintended consequence of the convenience of Spotify was that I listened to music recommended to me, or occasionally that I wanted to revisit, but generally song by song.

As each song played from Bird’s new album I realized why I loved cracking open a good album and listening to every song. I should do it more often!

What other simple pleasures forgotten should be remembered?

Categories
Learning

Read More, Read Better 2019 edition

I am a voracious reader, and am always learning. I figure my ability to read and learn is one of my most valuable skills, so it’s one I practice.

I have a lot of tricks to remember what I read, and be able to use it. These are some great ones I use – though not complete when it comes to how I read. I’d add these additional tips:

  • Set a reading goal and track it with a tool (I recommend GoodReads so you can track page/percent progress), this is my number #1 tip – use a WIP limit and focus on done to make greater progress
  • Find a note taking technique that works for you, this helps you retain what you learn better. Some have use an old-fashioned notebook, iPad and Apple Pencil, or type up notes in a tool like Evernote.
  • Figure out your favorite way to read (audiobooks, ebooks, physical books) or if you’re like me, a combination. Do your favorites most.
  • Spend time summarizing what you’ve learned (drawing, writing, talking, teaching, etc)
  • Use what you read as jumping off points for new reads: I often check out everything on a subject from the library and pour through them to find the best books.
  • Turn off the TV – it’s amazing how much you can do when you’re not in front of the TV.
  • Find places you like for reading – it’s easier to make time to read when you’re doing it somewhere you like.
  • Try alternate reading techniques for using your available time for reading – for example, if your hands are busy driving or doing chores, listen to audiobooks.
  • Try reading, then take notes – sometimes I’d rather read once and return for notes, which can make it easier to find the salient points if I’m not sure where a book is driving to.
  • Read it again – if I find a book particularly enjoyable or profound, I may read (or listen to) it again
  • Branch out by trying books you might not normally read – you may learn something, or at least expand your horizons – cultivate curiosity and ask questions along the way.
  • Be sure to throw in books you know you will like too – this makes it easier to read if you’re in a slump.
  • Find other people who read like you (or not like you!) – you’ll get their recommendations and can share yours, as well as finding interesting ways of connecting unrelated ideas together.
  • Subscribe to or find a summarizing service if you find it helps you – it can be helpful to refresh your memory (this doesn’t work for me but I know a few readers who like it)

Learn more at

Farnam Street: 

  • James Clear:
  • Categories
    Agile

    The Power of Noticing

    Recently I’ve pondered the power of noticing. Not judging, nor solutioning, just noticing.

    I think it’s a profoundly human instinct to jump directly to solving problems we see. A solution can become part of the problem without pause. Without observation. Without clear eyes to see what’s there, what’s connected, what’s working and not working.

    At pivotal moments in my life, someone with clear eyes, just noticing was able to prompt action in me with a few simple words in the form of a nonjudgmental observation.

    Things like, “That took courage” helped me see myself as courageous and reframe a nerve-wracking situation.

    “You seem happier lately” encouraged me to consider why that might be and decide to amplify it.

    “Your note made a difference for me,” describes both an action I took and it’s impact, and of course I’m bound to do more of that going forward.

    Or, notice given with eyes only, prompting me to think about how I show up.

    We must be paying attention… noticing the noticing to be able to use it well, I think. Even still, there seems to be unlimited power in notice. It’s a gift you can transform.

    I wonder what unknown and awesome action we can prompt, tomorrow, by noticing for one another?

    Categories
    General

    Recently Read: The Best Books I Read in 2018

    Reading Goal for 2018: 150 Books

    For 2017, I participated in a reading challenge through Good Reads setting my goal at 75 books. I surpassed that goal and read 100 books last year.

    This year I doubled by goal to 150 books. I hit 100 books in April. I hit 230 in November.

    How I Read

    The excellent thing about Good Reads is that I can track my progress, by page or percentage read, and this keeps me motivated to keep working towards my goal. I try not to have too many books in progress at a given time, usually my average is about 6 books at any given time.

    My reading approach includes both listening to audiobooks through the CD player in my car and Libby or Overdrive, reading physical books from the library or my workplace library (or my own copies), reading on Kindle or another ebook reader (Libby or Overdrive work well for this – I can reserve and checkout books without having to abide by library hours) and my employer provides access to Safari books which I can read from a computer OR my mobile device.

    If I’m in the car, I focus on either audiobooks on CD or digital audiobooks played from my phone. If I’m at home doing the dishes or cleaning, I listen on headphones or a speaker.

    I often read a book more than once – first reading for my understanding, and second to take notes. If I’ve got free time to spend, I’ll pick up a book and read / take notes as needed.

    I use the approach of reading the table of contents for physical and digital books, noting the TOC in notes, and then creating notes by chapter.

    Best Books I Read this Year

    • HBR’s Guide to Delivering Effective Feedback
    • Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
    • Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
    • Driving Fear Out of the Workplace by Kathleen D. Ryan
    • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
    • What We Say Matters by Judith Hanson Lasater
    • Co-Active Coaching by Laura Whitworth
    • Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal
    • Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein
    • The Five Levels of Attachment by Miguel Ruiz Jr.
    • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
    • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
    • Before Happiness by Shawn Achor
    • The Agile Mindset by Gil Broza
    • Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan
    • The Zen of Listening by Rebecca Shafir
    • Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

    Check Out my Full Reading List

    I’ve read a variety of fiction and nonfiction this year, as I did last year. Interested in the full list of what I’ve been reading? Take a look here.

    You can also see my year in books here.

    Categories
    Agile

    Do No Harm

    A feeling has been rising in me over the last year about how agilists choose to speak and behave. At Path to Agility in 2017, it became overwhelming in a moment when a conversation I was a part of took an unexpected turn.

    If I had not seen Tim Ottinger‘s opening keynote on aggressive curiosity, it might have taken much longer for me to identify this feeling.

    The Curiosity Manifesto

    Ottinger spoke of embracing curiosity, and closed his talk with the curiosity manifesto:

    By thinking and helping others to think, we have come to value:

    1. Instead of judgment, curiosity
    2. Instead of later, now
    3. Instead of guilt, permission

    That is, while things on the right have value, things on the left just seem to get in the way.

    My Take-Away

    I took these words to heart. When I felt the urge to judge a mistake in a tweet I posted, I paused, and said instead, “How interesting!” Throughout the two days, I postponed judgment. I tried to remain as open minded as I could.

    I’d like to think that this is easier for me because I am incredibly empathetic. I can easily put myself in the other’s shoes.

    Even in the conversation in question, I could see the temptation to make a flippant comment. I could see wanting to get some laughs, grow a sort of insider agilist camaraderie. But I could also see fresh faces just newly embracing agile participating in the conversation with me. And I thought, what a mistake it would be to close conversation off to possibility for a laugh. What harm we could do by turning a person off pursuing something better for themselves or for the workplace they might take this conversation back to. In the moment, I felt concern for how those taking part could misinterpret the words that were said.

    As the conference came to a close, and now, it seems more and more often… I am struck by how our words and deeds either express our values as a community, or betray them.

    As a community, I see agilists as smart, adaptive folks who believe in treating human beings with respect. We invite everyone to the table to participate. We are inclusive.

    As a person, the values of inspect and adapt are central to who I am. Explaining what I do to a long time friend I hadn’t seen in some time, she exclaimed- oh that makes perfect sense, that’s who you are.

    I want us as a community and as individuals to get better at doing no harm. I’d like to see us get better at constructive disagreement and listening to context before we speak. What we say and do can harm as much as help, depending on how we choose to respond.

    Maybe, you too, see where I am going here. Maybe you too see sweeping statements filled with judgment and feel uncomfortable. When we say, don’t do ____. Or that’s not ____. Or we make a flippant comment about a buzzword and it is taken out of context. When we tell a client, “you shouldn’t need a [role] for longer than [ a time period]” without understanding the client needs.

    What about when decisions rely on our words? What responsibility do we have to individuals? What about when organizations make decisions based on our advice? We can do great damage.

    Do No Harm

    The way I see it, as agilists it’s our responsibility to open up the conversation. Perhaps agilists should have the equivalent of a Hippocratic oath. We may not be operating on human bodies but organizations are living things- we are working to improve the health of organizations. There is great weight with this responsibility.

    Categories
    Agile Reflections

    The importance of time

    I recently was quoted as saying, I’ve yet to encounter an organization that was excited to put in the time for agile to be successful when they first get started.

    Often Scrum is adopted, and subsequently adapted for what the organization can tolerate in terms of the time commitment. So we are all talking about the same thing here, Scrum meetings consist of daily stand up (or scrum, or huddle, depending on your implementation), sprint planning, sprint demo, backlog grooming, retrospective, in some implementations, mid-sprint review/checkin.

    General consensus for standup or scrum meetings are that it should last 15 minutes. Hardly anyone disagrees on this, though lots of people have trouble implementing this. Run well, standup shouldn’t go over 15 minutes. If they do, it’s time to get curious.

    When it comes to sprint planning, while there is some disagreement on the amount of time groups should spend, I can almost guarantee an hour is unlikely to be sufficient. Lots of businesses do not want to spend more time however. If you’re only spending an hour on sprint planning, you’re losing out on a lot. You’re crippling your team.

    There are a few theories on the appropriate amount of time, from 4 hours for a 2 week sprint, to 1 day for a 1 month sprint. I’ve found 2 hours *can* work, however, it depends on the work being discussed, and the team’s need.

    Backlog review can take an hour, or it could take more depending on the backlog, the product owner and the expertise in the room.

    Retrospectives should take as long as your sprint planning meetings should. You don’t get into the heart of how a team can do better or the problems that they are facing in the course of an hour. I’ve found two hours is really the sweet spot for organizations unwilling to spare more time. It’s enough time to knock out a check in activity, get the team warmed up to discuss things and start digging into the real things that get in their way or help them succeed. You can wrap up with a check out activity and sometimes don’t even need all that time.

    It’s an interesting quandary. I see organizations that say they want to get better and see the benefits, but they don’t want it to cost them any time. Things worth doing rarely work that way.

    Categories
    General

    100 Books for 2017

    I set a personal goal of reading 50 books this year and finished double my goal.

    Included in my list were fiction, non-fiction, personal and work related books, as well as things I just wanted to learn more about.

    How I did it:

    • I set a goal in Goodreads and tracked my progress there.
    • Set a reading cadence goal:
      • to read some each week, or each day depending on what my schedule looked like at the time.
    • Liberal use of all tools available to me:
      • physical books
      • library (physical checkouts and online resources such as eBooks and audiobooks)
      • Overdrive
      • SafariBooks
      • Project Gutenberg
      • LibriVox
      • Kindle
      • Audible
    • Always reading a few books at any given time. This is important for me, because sometimes I just do not feel like reading that non-fiction book on work stuff, or I’m really focused on a problem I want to solve and I don’t want to spend time on fiction.
      • This also helped when I was trudging through a work of classic fiction I really wanted to finish, but needed a break from the language or themes for a while.
    • Used multiple formats
      • I often got more than one format of a book so that I could listen to it, read it, and highlight/take notes. This was especially helpful for dense content that doesn’t lend itself to audio.
    • Always had a book with me:
      • If I was stuck in traffic, it was no big deal because I had a audiobook to keep me company.
      • If I was waiting a long time in line, or at the doctor’s office, I saw it as a bonus to get some reading time in.
    • Took notes:
      • Used digital and hard copy notes to track information I knew I would need / use again.
      • Scanned relevant dense pages I wanted to come back to so that I could take notes with a PDF app and Apple Pencil on my iPad.
    • Audiobooks:
      • I listened to audiobooks while driving, exercising, doing housework, or other tasks. Some I download if it’s possible to do so through Overdrive or Audible. Some I get form the library on CD.
      • I often have an audiobook on CD in my car, and one or two loaded on my phone.
    • Cast a wide net:
      • The Columbus Library is absolutely awesome. Whenever I have been away from Columbus, I have missed this great library. So I use it to the max. This is something I’ve done most of my adult life.
        • I search the library for books on a topic I want to learn.
        • Within checkout limits, I check out every book on the topic.
          • I often request additional book purchases from the library as the most recent are not yet purchased by them.
          • I also check networked libraries to see if I can request a copy through this route.
        • I group the books based on aspect (at times I group by size, subtopic, or whether they seem like they will be easier or harder to discern if I want to read them).
        • I weed through each book to determine which would be helpful, which are redundant or not useful and which I might want to have my own copy of for reference.
        • Then I read them.
    • Joined a book club:
      • I joined a book club that met regularly with other readers. Our book club list contained diverse books to expand my reading experience.

    Some interesting things happened as a result of my reading that I did not anticipate.

    • For books I read on work topics, I wanted to share them with coworkers- but I know not everyone has the time or interest to dedicate. I could recommend whole books, or certain chapters or pages.
    • I realized that for some books, I just could not digest them in audio format. This has not happened often for me, but if the subject is particularly complicated, or the narrator is (for whatever reason) difficult to listen to, I switched format from audiobook to physical or digital book.
    • For non-fiction books, I found myself finishing a book, and then skimming through it again to take notes if I didn’t take notes as I read it the first time. This definitely contributed to a stronger understanding of the book’s content.

    For 2018 I set my goal to 75 150 books and am working towards it every day.

    Categories
    Agile

    Agile Principles for Everyone

    Based on the 12 Agile Principles and adapted for any delivered value.

    1. Early and continuous delivery of the most valuable work.
    2. Welcome and manage change. It happens.
    3. When work can be broken up and delivered in smaller (but valuable and usable) chunks, do it.
    4. Work directly with your customer daily throughout projects.
    5. Use motivated individuals. Given them the environment, support and trust to thrive.
    6. Face to face conversation is still the most effective method of conveying information.
    7. High business value is the primary measure of success.
    8. Work should be sustainable.
    9. Give continuous attention to excellence.
    10. Maximize the amount of work not done.
    11. The best work emerges from self-organizing teams.
    12. Regularly reflect on the past and make adjustments.

    I’m sure I’m not the first or the last on this, and if you’re interested in more, check out ModernAgile.org.

    Categories
    Agile

    Best Practice: Impediment Backlog

    At it’s simplest the backlog is a list of work we want to do. There are several types:

    • Sprint Backlog: The work team(s) have committed to do in a sprint, or the work that is prioritized to start first in Lean / Kanban.
    • Product Backlog: All of the work that has been requested to do for a product or suite of products.
    • Impediment Backlog: The work to remove or reduce the impact of impediments and blockers for the team(s).

    Any high performing team should be familiar with this kind of work. There are a few ways to view what this backlog is to contain. Some describe it as a backlog for the Scrum Master / Agile Coach. Some describe it as a kanban style list of things to improve in the agile implementation for the individuals, teams, departments, even organization as a whole. I suggest the following definition:

    Impediment Backlog: a list of impediments for the team(s). With support from the Agile team(s), the Scrum Master / Agile Coach works throughout every sprint to try to remove or reduce the impact of impediments.

    Consider that these items in the Impediments backlog should be informed through team interaction during a sprint (or throughout work in Kanban) and solidified and prioritized to work in the Retrospective.

    Who is the Product Owner of the Impediment Backlog?

    Unblocking the team is not just a job for the Scrum Master / Agile Coach. So, the impediment backlog is not just a backlog for Scrum Master / Agile Coach, it is a backlog for the team.

    A high performing team is one who can work together with the Scrum Master / Agile Coach to unblock itself. The Scrum Master / Agile Coach is often the person leading this effort.

    The Product Owner of the Impediment Backlog is the team itself.

    Read More:

    1. Crisp’s Blog » Improve the improvement process
    2. Organizational Impediment Management: Early Risk Detection for Agile | Getting Agile
    3. Impediment Management and the Agile Triangle | Getting Agile
    4. The Impediments Backlog | IT-Zynergy ApS
    5. Remove Impediments. Don’t Inventory Them.
    6. 7 Steps to Build a Kanban Board for a Scrum Team’s Impediments » Agile Trail