Daily Archives: December 28, 2015

Agile? Three more practical practices – test if you’re Agile.

In the previous post: Are you Agile? In business? In Life? Three practical practices

Based on our practical consulting and coaching experience we discussed three of the six criteria to verify whether an approach is Agile:


Adaptation, Incremental Iteration and Time boxing.


In this post we describe the remaining three: Assuming an empirical approach to problems and challenges, Focusing on the important rather than on the urgent, and being Collaborative customer driven.

Assuming an empirical approach to problems and challenges – an empirical approach suggests that solving problems and overcoming challenges is based on observation and experimentation. Many times it involves a creative investigation of solutions.

An empirical approach can be contrasted with the theoretical approach which many organizations employ.


One of my clients in research and development of aeronautical components spent too much time theorizing possible solutions to complex engineering challenges; lagging behind the competition.

They collected data, analyzed and projected in order to apply it according to a theoretical model without practical results.


By implementing an empirical approach, as part of their Agile transition, they proactively changed structural elements and followed through according to the results, similar to software spiking, thus receiving faster feedback, reducing risks, and progressing faster.

Agile individuals and organizations prefer to experiment and observe rather than theorize.


Acting based on a given set of data, observing the results and tweaking/updating the approach to yield better results.


This is quite similar to the Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle which is the basis of the Agile reflection.


In this sense, being empirical, assuming an empirical approach to problems and challenges is a bit like being a Satisfier rather than an optimizer.

Families and individuals can also experiment with being empirical, by committing to small changes, observing the results and changing their environment in the process.


Rather than preparing a thorough plan to change the dietary intake, practically altering small elements and observing the impacts.

Much of my Gestalt therapeutic work is based on the empirical approach of small experimental changes – the personal results are always impressive.


Retrospect – are the meetings you lead, involve an innovative empirical approach to learning? Or are you wasting time theorizing and procrastinating without moving to action?


Focusing on the important rather than on the urgent – this well-known technique which is at the epicenter of Time management training, is crucial to enabling Agility for individuals and organizations.


Jonathan Mead author of the blog JonathanMead.com discusses his 5 Ways to Stay Focused on the Important

  • Set 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day
  • Focus on providing value
  • Think long-term
  • First things first
  • Have a clear vision

The concept of Urgent and Important in time management, reminds me of the Parkinson’s law of triviality. According to Wikipedia:

Parkinson’s law of triviality, also known as bike-shedding, bike-shed effect, or the bicycle-shed example, is C. Northcote Parkinson’s 1957 argument that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.

Parkinson observed and illustrated that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant
spent the majority of its time with pointless discussions on relatively trivial and unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike-shed,
while neglecting the less-trivial proposed design of the nuclear power plant itself, which is far more important but also a far more difficult and complex task to criticize constructively.


Agility in organizations is more than just focusing on the Urgent and Important; it is also knowing what is important, what delivers value, what is crucial to the client and focusing the efforts on the important items.


Retrospect do you regularly update your weekly important and urgent lists?


Collaborative customer driven – we kept this criterion to the end, and yet it is by no means of
lesser importance, on the contrary.
Agile approaches are collaborative development efforts, focusing on the customer.


The ongoing, mutual impacting and trustful exchange with the customer is crucial in achieving Agility.

Collaborative customer driven is actually a result of the first five criteria:

  • Adaptation allows us to change the process according to the market and the customers;
  • Incremental iteration enables verification and delivery of small elements – thus the
    commitment is limited in scope and the frequent feedback enables a change of course when necessary;
  • Time boxing grants predictability while limiting the allocated time and budget/resources to a
    certain effort – often increasing the visibility towards the customer;
  • Empirical approach is cornerstone in moving forward and providing
    innovative, breakthrough solution, many times involving the customer;
  • Focusing on the important rather than the urgent, demands an understanding of what is
    important, what delivers value and what is crucial to the customer.

Agile approaches instill a collaborative environment, inviting the client to participate in the process, while aligning the process according to the customer.


The above practical tests together with the three described in the previous post, validate if an individual and an organization is Agile.

Can you rank your organization according to the six criteria?

Meanwhile I invite you to read: Agile Decisions – Agile Decisions – Driving Effective Agile Decisions in Business published this June, which discusses the relationship between local Agile decisions and top down command and control decision processes.

Leadership of teams requires feedback why do we focus on the negative?

Leadership of teams – Summary – Must have 9

  • We know positive feedback yields improved performance
  • Statistical regression to the mean governs the behaviour we observe
  • I provide positive feedback I am being paid with a worse outcome.
  • I provide negative feedback, the performance improves
  • Always opt for constructive, building feedback, since it provides better results in the long term and paves the way for a long lasting high performance team

Positive feedback counters our observed experience

I am reviewing my presentation on building highly effective teams, preparing tomorrow’s keynote in Charleston, thanks Ron. The ninth and probably elusive Must Have of building and leading a highly effective team is: Provide development opportunities and recognition.

We know that constructive feedback is the cornerstone for individual and team growth yet many times we find ourselves focusing on the negative.


Let’s start by observing the possible feedback options we have: (see full pitcure below)

Positive Negative
Addition Positive Reinforcement

Pleasurable and increases probability of repeat behaviour


Unpleasant leading to a decrease in repeat behaviour

Subtraction Extinction

Avoidance of an unpleasant stimulus increases the likelihood of repeat behaviour

Negative Reinforcement

Removal of a pleasant stimulus decreases the likelihood of repeat behaviour

We can add and subtract a positive and a negative – four options.

For example: my son returns from school with an A+ in math, I am very happy and let him watch TV until late. That is an example of a Positive Addition.

Compare that with my son returning from school with a D in math, so I make him visit my mother in law, that is supposedly a Negative Addition…(don’t fret Nitza you’re a lovely mother in law J )

So these are our options, question is, why do we find it so easy to focus more on the negative.

To our help comes a break-through research by Nobel Prize Laureate Daniel Kahneman. In his bestseller book: Thinking Fast and Slow Professor Kahneman discusses many irrationalities in our thinking.

He tells a story of, as a young psychologist, observing the behavior of feedback at a military flight training school.

Before that though let’s discuss the concept of statistical regression to the mean which in everyday life translates to something like: No matter how bad things get or how good, things always come back to the middle.

So when we are at our lowest and all traditional medicine fails, and we seek the help of an alternative healer, there’s a good chance that probability wise we will get better and wrongly attribute it to a Lay-of-Hands. And if we don’t make it, than we won’t be able to debunk it….

Jerry Seinfeld episode depicts the concept succinctly.

Back to Kahneman, he noticed that:

When an instructor provides praise for good performance the next landing is worse; when an instructor provides criticism for bad performance the next landing is better. Though the instructor might have learnt that positive feedback is better, it doesn’t coincide with the actual experience.

Actually we are witnessing a vicious cycle. When my son returns with an A+ ; I am thrilled and we go to eat out at MacDonald’s ; next time he has a D- we eat at Legal Seafood (cold soup and overpriced mains), next time he evens-out and gets a B+.

So my thinking is something like: bad sea food is nourishing.

Seriously though, what I am experiencing is that when I provide positive feedback I am being paid with a worse outcome. When I provide negative feedback, the performance improves.

Of course, the performance in this case has nothing to do with the feedback given, rather it revolves around an unseen statistical mean.

However: if we wish to improve the MEAN we get much better results by pulling upward from a constructive positive feedback approach.

We know it, yet because of the feedback cycle described, we fail to Experience it!

Does it happen to us? Normally people refute these findings…however many of our interactions our governed by the described process.

Actually on average when we are nice to others we might be paid with a lesser than expected response and when we are rude we might be paid we a nicer than expected response – quite confusing.

However in the long term being nice yields better results no matter the local occurrences.

If we want our teams to improve – always opt for constructive, building feedback, since it provides better results in the long term and paves the way for a long lasting high performance team!

Read more on the nine must haves – Building Highly Effective Teams.

Non Verbal Cues – Language for Leaders

What is the hidden non-verbal message?

As an Agile coach I run into many team situations that require quick deciphering of non-verbal cues. I follow the rule of three in making sure I assign the proper meaning.

The rule of three states, that it in order to correctly assess attitudes and analyze opportunities for influence, we have to observe a cluster containing three behavioral elements.

What’s the message in the picture?
Look for a cluster of three non-verbal behavior – eyes, shoulders, hands.


Influence team leadership

If you think that this is “it’s not me” message – ask yourself what non-verbal cues are present.

Eyes down and to the side, raised shoulders and hands forward with palms facing up create a three element cluster that suggests submission, surrender, dis-ingenuousness, or pleading for forgiveness.

Read more here – Silent influencing  on Amazon Audible, Kindle, Print