Hello and Welcome!

IMG_1014Well hello!  Welcome to my little page here.  You might want to know what you are in for here.  Well, I am a guy living in a small rural town in West Georgia with a beautiful, intelligent, and extremely thoughtful wife and three wonderful, smart children.  Most of my day is spent as an Agile Coach where I work with a wide variety of folks in helping them be Agile and helping them down a road of increased community, trust, and improvement.  This doesn’t always happen, but life is an experiment and a journey.

About 10-ish years ago, I started to just jot down observations on how my spiritual life is impacted and can impact other “aspects” of my life.  I had seen how fear and control could negatively impact relationships and damage cultures and I started seeing how ideas like Agile and collaboration line up with the idea of kingdom. I also started in investigate how we can improve our lives if we turn to building relationships in business and in our personal lives.  The journey has consisted of more questions, thoughts, challenges, and solidification of core beliefs that grow around a desire to see improvement, reform, and movement in the right direction.

So, this evolving site has a few different things including semi-amusing ramblings, a bit of “here is where I am in my spiritual journey, a few agile resources (I won’t promise anything though), and finally maybe a bit of movie reviews (but from a different viewpoint).

Anyway, that’s it for now.  I’m really looking forward to amusing and/or offending you!

Leadership is the Key – Agile 2017 Day 1

It’s Agile2017 time again!  Woohoo!.  Everyone from developers and scrum masters and lowly vendors to the “stalwarts” of the agile movement is here.  Over the next week, we will listen to speakers talking about principles, application of agility, tools, systems, and even the new shiny stuff that is all around.  But it tells me something about where we are headed as a “philosophy” when the first keynote speaker, David Marquet, doesn’t speak of principles, tools, processes, or practices, but instead speaks of “leadership.”

Leadership not Leaders

Leadership is not a group of people but rather it is 1) what we do each day to take responsibility for the work we do, 2) our attitude toward learning and improvement, and 3) our ability to use our skills in a way that best serves our colleagues and our end goal.  The word “lead” is derived from a german word that means “to set a plumb line;” meaning that leadership is all about demonstrating for those around us what the good way is.  In agile, we move leadership solely out of hands of those “in charge” and into everyone’s hands.  We ask and (sorry for the word) demand that individuals and teams lead.  So when we talk about leadership being the key, we don’t mean the managers, we mean building people to where they can be in possession of their own leadership!  David Marquet, a former Naval Submarine Commander and now speaker, talked about how he got out of the “giving orders business.”  He required that his entire crew be leaders in their thinking; he created an environment where people wanted to be leaders in their work and where to improve to get there!

Leading Leaders

When we take this leap to where leadership is now in the hands of those closest to the work, how we lead these individuals changes.  They are no longer resources that are to be consumed, they are not simply “red workers” (again see David Marquet’s work), and they are definitely not the bottom of the pyramid in the organizational chart.  They are now the people getting the work done, learning and knowing the best way to execute, and are the one’s who are driving the solutions!  They are now leaders! Leading these folks just became harder at the same time it became easier!  Our job, as leaders, moves from telling people what to do and now becomes focused on how we inspire, improve, and influence.  It will require that leaders in this new revolution learn new skills.

Leadership = Constant Improvement

In the book, The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership, the author speaks of how Toyota’s culture is built around continuous and constant improvement and how even Sr. Leaders are required to learn new methods and improve old ones.  In some cases at Toyota, leader’s growth was temporarily halted to return to the basics and learn a better way to do the simple things before moving up.  Other cases required that leaders be moved around to different teams to learn new ways of leading without having authority.  In all cases, leaders were expected to be able to provide an environment where everyone could grow and improve constantly.  I will say this – in order for us to challenge our team members, we must start by challenging our thoughts in how we lead!

And so…

This is how we kick off Agile 2017 – with a call to change the way we approach leadership, thinking, and work!  it is a great reminder that leadership is at the core of agility and that in order to move into a new way of working, radical leadership is required!

Look for more on the happenings of Agile 2017 soon!

Straight Outta LGBT

Zachary & Bayleigh

I have been in the presence of God plenty of time. I have read my bible for years and I’ve prayed for God to miraculously take SSA (same sex attraction) away but nothing happened

I’m not saying those things don’t work because I know of people who have had and encounter with God and SSA completely vanished, but for me it wasn’t like that.

Why did I not receive complete deliverance at one of the hundreds of altar calls that I answered? Was there something wrong with me? Did God just not like me as much as others? Did I not deserve deliverance because God hates gays? Some of my questions never received answers but I knew God didn’t play favorites and he has great gifts for his sons and daughters. I had a deliverance destined for me! My problem was I didn’t know how to get it.

My name…

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Three Reasons Why You Should Not Hire an Agile Coach

Originally posted on LinkedIn here.

I admit it – I am an agile coach. I walk teams through starting up, I work with Product Owners on building backlogs, I work with organizations on agile adoption, I help people and companies get more “awesome.” And now I am going to tell you three reasons why you shouldn’t hire me, or anyone like me! Now, this doesn’t mean every organization should never hire coaches, but over the years I have witnessed scenarios where coaches could not be successful.

Continue reading “Three Reasons Why You Should Not Hire an Agile Coach”

Agile Adoption or Transformation?

Hey all!  This is a repost from my blog at MATRIX Resources.  Check out the original here:

Matrix Resources Professional Services Blog – Adoption or Transformation?


There is only one answer to this, isn’t there? Unless you do a full-on, top down, inside out, grassroots, executive-led, business-driven transformation, you’ll never experience the benefits of agile practices, right? If you would have asked me several years ago, I would have told you that there was only one way – a full-scale transformation. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve worked with several organizations that, for some reason, simply could not commit to a full transformation.

Understanding Where We are Headed

Let’s first look at what is meant with agile adoption or transformation. I’m sort of a word guy -my background (and just my brain) tends to have me looking up the meanings and the origination of words. So, here we go:

Transform: make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of. Transform comes from the Latin word transformare which literally means “across form” or to change form. The Romans would have used this word to describe the process by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

Adopt: to accept or act in accordance with (a plan, principle, etc.). Adopt comes from another Latin word, adoptare (I am so glad I took two years of Latin – thank you Magistra Sullivan!), which means “to choose or desire for oneself.” Once more, the Romans might have used this when talking about bringing specific holidays, cultural improvements, or architectural techniques from conquered states into their own.

So, if we look at just the basics, agile adoptions mean that companies chose certain practices that are agile. They are, in this case, bringing these principles or practices or tools into their existing business framework. On the flip side, transformations mean that these companies are letting the principles, values, and practices change them. In some cases, organizations might view this transformation as opposed to their business models, their existing strategic goals, or even detrimental to their client relationships. Let’s look at a few navigational decision points that will help your organization decide which journey is right for you.

Organizational Strategic Alignment

That’s a mouthful! In essence, does your organization already have a strategic set of goals set up to achieve this value and is it static? We have worked with organizations that answer a resounding “yes” to this question. They have invested millions of dollars to make sure that their business processes, tactical and organizational frameworks, and strategic goals all align to their primary product delivery. To take on a full transformation, even if it is IT only (which is NEVER recommended), would require more than just a systemic change to their business model – it would possibly mean tearing it down and starting over. Adoption of certain agile practices, even at the executive level, simply mean increase the efficiency by which the organization can execute and deliver value.

For other companies, transformation is necessary. They might struggle with keeping up with their market’s vastly changing needs and when they do deliver, they are already behind the curve. They might even have no way of supporting or transitioning their existing products to 21st century products. These companies NEED transformation; adoption for them would simply be injecting chaos into an already chaotic environment.

“Championing” Agility

Another buzzword! A fancy way to ask, “who is going to run with this initiative?” I’m reminded of a customer where the sponsor of the agile initiative had a manager who was almost anti-agile. This individual, even though a vice president, had to expend additional effort just to counteract the challenges from the manager. In addition, the business didn’t engage fully. This left the IT manager only able to focus on targeted adoptions and tactical changes to delivery. Was this a failure? Not at all! While it wasn’t all that this individual (or we, to be honest) wanted, there were pockets of success and improvement in delivering working products. Adoption is not always transformation’s evil stepbrother! Sometimes the sponsor can only champion adoption.

Funding Models

How does your company fund projects or initiatives? This subject can get very complicated, but fortunately, we are not talking about the several different ways that organizations can improve their funding. We are also not talking about capitalizing or operationalizing work. We are simply asking here whether your company is at a place where it makes sense to address changes in funding. Why is this such an important question? Many companies have implemented very project-centric funding methods by which monies are allocated in very large chunks, sometimes into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Oddly enough, these same models require down-to-the-task level coordination and oversight from project and program managers. Agile frameworks at a program and portfolio level generally reduce the size of work, therefore reducing risk. Transformation seeks to tackle this issue by thin-slicing portfolios of work and providing autonomy to allocate funds as needed, incrementally. Adoptions, on the other hand, could keep a project-based funding model and simply improve the way we look at tracking the funds. Is your company at a place where finance should and could be addressed?

Staffing and Team Components

How much does your organization rely on offshore, nearshore, or vendor-delivered solutions? Please hear me out on this one! I am not saying that an organization cannot “be” agile if they have offshore teams or work with vendors for their supporting products. I am saying that the questions must be asked to see what makes sense. Several of our customers have a large offshore component with one company having approximately 75% of their software development occurring offshore. Another client has a dependency where they rely on mostly external vendors (some of them rather sizeable) and simply cannot say, “hey largest-provider-of-CMS-products, we want you to change the way you deliver software!” Understanding the trade-offs (needs of strategic partners vs. the company’s direction) is key to deciding whether agile practices are adopted or whether the organization looks at a full-scale agile transformation that could impact how the work occurs with partners.

Size of the Company

I can hear it now! “Joshua, are you saying that big companies should not think about transformation? Are you saying that agile is so delicate that only certain practices could be adopted by our Fortune 100 organizations?” Absolutely not! This question, just like the funding model question is based on what the organization is willing to do. There are companies that are big and act monolithically and there are those that still have the flexibility (and agility) to respond to change. There are companies that see change as the only constant and those are the ones where transformation aligns with their core values. But let’s also be very transparent – size of the company does play a part. We must ask ourselves, if we are in a large organization, what is the appetite for change? As some companies grow, their desire and will to make changes that keep them on the cutting edge can dim. In this case, there is still hope of agile practices, delivery, and even skunkworks-type scenarios where agile can be adopted but the thought of a full-scale transformation is more challenging.

And in closing…

As you have read this way-too-long blog, I hope that it has at least sparked questions and even help expose some of the hidden challenges that your organization may face. This was not meant to dissuade anyone from transformation or, worse, shame organizations that haven’t been able to punch through. This hopefully highlights the concepts and ideas that need to be made transparent to make a good decision!

Our Customers Don’t Care if We Are Agile

This quote by Steve Jobs, “It Just Works,” sums up the long winning streak that Apple had from when Jobs came back to Apple until he unfortunately passed away.  During that time Steve and teams delivered innovation after innovation and continued with wins like OS X and iOS from a digital media standpoint, not to mention some underrated killer work like Aperture and Final Cut.  But do you know what I never heard?  What methodology Apple uses.  I also never heard how many people are on each of their teams.  And I never heard about their team agreements.  Matter-of-fact, all I know is that when I get a product, it just worked; it did what I needed it to do, and if there were bugs they got fixed.

Oh and sorry about the seemingly harsh headline – my wife warns me about my propensity for the dramatic but alas, here we are. Then again, maybe this is what we need to start focusing on what matters. For the past several years we have seen a movement where how a product or service is accomplished the creation/cultivation/delivery mattered for than the quality of the product itself. We care about organic, non-GMO, antibiotic-free. We care about fair-trade or sustainable farming. We even care about intelligently sourced materials. And these are important. But you know what no one screams about? Whether we use waterfall or agile practices to deliver digital products. Why is that? Because, in the end, our digital products are different that food, cars, and coffee and our users want high quality products delivered regularly with updates that work.

Why do I bring this up? Because, unfortunately, Agile has stopped being a word that heralds speed, quality, and innovation, and has become some buzz word that is used for garnering more clients or additional funding from investors. We have watched as more and more folks have created an industry where agility is not a mindset but is a sales pitch. Consultants are “versed in agile methodologies” and yet do not want to partner with their clients to make the hard decisions and find the real problems. And, because in the end, our users want high quality products delivered regularly with updates that work.

Usually in the third paragraph of a blog like this, there is a call to “return to the principles of the original manifesto,” but I would say that this is overplayed. It is time for us to move forward and focus on what our customers and our clients’ customers want – good products with great features faster. If that means we use different methods and we address different problems using different tools, then so be it. Whatever it means, the ultimate goal is not agility, it is valuable products. And why is this (repeat after me): because in the end, our users want high quality products delivered regularly with updates that work.