Wonder Wall – Agile Retrospectives

Agile practices include holding regular retrospectives, blameless port-mortems, and open town-halls. These forums have their benefits and their drawback.

The Wonder Wall was created because we wanted to share every day. To remember and reflect on the small stuff that might not come up in a formal retrospective session. To celebrate successes, individual efforts, and engage everyone in the office in the moment. To share for its own sake in a way that doesn’t preclude action as a response.

    • We picked a spot somewhere visible to the whole company where there was a lot of foot traffic and folks could stop and write something easily
    • We figured out a way to get the spacing right by cutting string and laying them in a grid
    • We stuck a small wall-safe hook at every intersection of the grid
    • We printed 3 kinds of cards on thick paper stock (
      I feel happy because…,
      I feel anxious because…
      I feel _____ because…
    • Finally we put the cards, markers, and stickers up next to the wall with some simple instructions to share.

    If you try it, comment back and let me know how it works in your team

On the difference between Empathy and Compassion

Recently I’ve been considering the nature of relationships as complex systems. In the complex domain the advice is generally “Probe – Sense – Respond”. In the context of relationships this might mean observing how someone behaves in under certain conditions and categorizing the responses. It is usually impossible to predict what this person will do but in retrospect we are able to draw insights. My suggestion was that this is an essential human skill: Empathy.

We often confuse empathy and compassion. After reading this article I thought to highlight the difference:

  • Empathy is about the pursuit of understanding other points of view, it helps us develop better relationships because it enables us to navigate. Empathy is more about developing maps.
  • Compassion is a word that implies an emotional connection with others without shifting our POV. Compassion is more about acknowledging the intrinsic value.

The article argues that we should insulates our logic from our emotion, i.e. develop your compassion for others, not your empathy.

I believe, it is a question of our intensions: if our goal is to understand then empathy is more of the correct word (and behavior). If our goal is to care about other people then perhaps compassion is the better word.

3 Measures of Momentum

Momentum is like a booster rocket. Ignition makes the path forward clearer and obstacles easier to overcome. When a team has momentum, they are “in the zone”. Things just seem to flow.

Maxwell explains Momentum using an analogy of a train:

A train traveling 55 mph on a railroad track can crash through a 5-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete wall without stopping. That same train, starting from a stationary position, won’t be able to go through an inch-thick block in front of the driving wheel.

It is never the size of your problem that is the problem. It’s a lack of momentum. Without momentum, even a tiny obstacle can prevent you from moving forward. With momentum, you’ll navigate through problems and barely even notice them.

As a leader, your responsibility is to understand momentum, to get it moving for your organization, and to sustain it over time.
John C. Maxwell

Skip to 14:20 RE: Maxwell on Momentum

When I first learned about Momentum it helped me think about the leadership role in a new way. I realized then that I could come to work every day and focus on problems. On good days I would assist the team to solve those problems. I would feel good because I would see an immediate impact. But ultimately the impact I would have is small, fleeting, and doesn’t scale. Problem solving is important, but the ultimate problem solver is a team with Momentum.

Problem solving only scales if it is the responsibility of the team. A leader’s job is to enable the team by setting the right conditions.

In this article I want to briefly outline the three measures of Momentum; with the proper mixture of capabilities, alignment, and energy you have the conditions for a team to achieve Momentum.

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Add a Drain to the Product Development Backlog

Your product development backlog needs a drain, a construct to focus intent on an important task that all-too-often gets overlooked: removing low value issues from the backlog. As I’ll explain, there are significant benefits to the system: greater predictability, higher morale, and the delivery of greater business value. It is important to use this construct because it encourages us to face an uncomfortable truth, we can’t do everything.

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