Giraffe and Jackal – Non-Violent Communication

Today my Twitter timeline contained a transformative gem, something that will help me reserve judgement and connect better to others: A 3-hour video of a workshop on Non-Violent-Communication.

Normally the 3 hours would have put me off. As would the song within the first 5 minutes and the fact that this guy – Marshall Rosenberg – uses hand puppets to get his point across. Given, I’m on the “tree-hugging”, “words shape our world and have tremendous power”-side of IT. But not that far out…

Still, about 10 minutes in, I knew I was going to watch the complete 3 hours and that this experience will change how I communicate and how I look onto the world.

Continue reading

Posted in Communication, Fairly Good Practice, Food for Thought, Resource | 2 Comments

Job satisfaction as a manager?

Managers are usually paid better than software developers – I’m thinking middle managers here, not the C-level. Why is that when the developers are the ones that actually build the product? You can have developers without managers, but the other way round is pretty pointless.

For a long time I held the following hypothesis about manager’s wages:

Managers earn well because they (should) have a specific set of people skills that are not that common and therefore in high demand.

Now that I’ve been in management positions I’d have to amend for myself:

The high income is in part compensation for not having the satisfaction of creating something yourself.

At least I hardly ever get around to create something myself. The days on which I write a concept or interview a client are highlights but they are few and far between. Growing a team and processes is not the same as being directly involved with designing and coding a new feature. At least not for me. I’d love to be the kind of person who strives solely on supporting others but most evenings I go home and wonder what the hell I did all day. Pushing Jira tickets is not gonna save the world.

I dimly recall being much happier as a web developer. When I look back on the past 2 years, I was probably happiest while building and launching Retr-O-Mat, a private project.
Other managers don’t seem to have that “empty feeling”-problem. Maybe I primarily have a problem with being a Project Manager? Anyway, I’m wondering, what do you other managers draw satisfaction from?

On a related note: I quit my job and starting on August 1st I give myself a 6 months Sabbatical to create tons of stuff and find out what I want to do with my life – Web development? Writing? Consulting? It’s gonna be one big experiment and also:

Wheee! Freeeeeeeedom!

Posted in Food for Thought | 5 Comments

How to keep up to date with Agile & Lean

Two weeks ago, this page about UX Design showed up in my Twitter stream. It’s a collection of Twitter accounts, blogs, conferences, etc. that people (newly) interested in UX Design might check out to keep themselves up to date.

That page had already been an adaptation. The original inspiration was this one: Front-End Technologies.

I liked the idea and implementation of both sites very much and after 2 weeks I present to you *trumpets*:

How to keep up to date with Agile & Lean


The design’s not quite as nice as of it’s role models, but I’ve got ideas to spice it up, when I’ve got a little more time.

So, how do you like it? Anything you’d like me to add? I’d especially appreciate links to great podcasts!

PS: Thanks to @thomasepping for suggesting the “Last Update”-date.

Posted in Agile / Lean, Resource, Scrum Master | Leave a comment

My Facilitation Kit

About two years ago, I toyed around with the idea of a “Scrum Master Emergency Kit“. Today I’d like to show you the kit tray I really use. I hope it’s useful for people new to facilitating retrospectives (or meetings in general):


Anyone else up to showing how they haul around their stuff? And what stuff it is in particular?

Posted in Meta, Scrum Master, Visualization | 2 Comments

Lunch with ready-made conversation starters – for conferences

Last year I expressed “Dinner with a Stranger” as a pattern for Conferences. Now I’d like to suggest an alternative (or add-on?):

At OOP 2013 I once again realized, how bad I am at chatting up strangers without a decent conversation starter. I mean, I consciously make myself sit a table with other people and then, more often than not, I’m not brave enough to start a conversation. Although “Meeting new people” is very high on my list of reasons for attending conferences.

So here’s my latest idea:
At the entrance of the mess hall, lay out stacks of cards: One stack per table. One card per seat. Each card has the following information:

  • Table number
  • Conversation starter

The conversation starter is a random question such as:

  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What’s your favourite Simpson character and why?
  • What book are you currently reading?
  • Which song makes you embarassed that you really love it?
  • What were you doing when the Berlin wall came down?
  • Cats or dogs?
  • What did you want to become as a child?
  • Who’s your hero?
  • What’s your favourite band?
  • Continue reading
Posted in Fairly Good Practice, Food for Thought | Leave a comment

Beware of the Cult of Busy in Company Culture

Have you ever met people that tell you of their many, many important meetings and duties and the long, long hours they work? And people that constantly want you to take care of their request NOW, because the client is super important and it’s super urgent and can’t possibly wait? Often these groups have considerable overlap.

These people make me weary as I supect them to be worshippers of the Cult of Busy as  described by Scott Berkun:

“When I was younger I thought busy people were more important than everyone else. Otherwise why would they be so busy? I had busy bosses, busy parents, and always I just thought they must have really important things to do. It seemed an easy way to see who mattered and who didn’t. The busy must matter more, and the lazy mattered less.

This is the cult of busy. That simply by always seeming to have something to do, we all assume you must be important or successful.

It explains the behavior of many people at work. By appearing busy, people bother them less, and  simultaneously believe they’re doing well at their job. It’s quite a trick.”

To these people “being busy” seems to be an end in itself. Something that reflects their and everyone else’s worths. The problem is, that “busyness” is NOT an end in itself at all. At least for me it’s true that on the “crazy-busy” days, it doesn’t feel like I get anything done. It’s the occasional quiet afternoon, during which I get my important, more strategic work done.

So, be very careful what you wish for value in a company culture: If you appreciate developers for dropping everything and coming to your aid with an IMPORTANT client request, getting busy right away, then that’s what you’ll get. If the NEXT really important request comes in before your old one is solved, then yours will be the thing that’s dropped:

Continue reading

Posted in Food for Thought | 1 Comment

Find someone to TeamUp

At my workplace we’ve recently started following Scrum and Kanban. I head the product management team with 2 newly minted product owners. They used to be a product manager and sales engineer respectively. One has limited experience with Scrum, the other none. So how to help them find their footing in their new role?

There’s a lot to learn from trainings and books, but there’s a difference between hearing and reading about what an agile workplace is like and experiencing the reality of it. That’s why I contacted my PO friends at my former employer to see it they would let them take a peek. They would. (Thank you!)

A crate of Füchsen changed hands and N. and N. got to observe a planning meeting and afterwards asked scores of questions. They returned completely psyched: “So that’s what it’s like, when it’s ‘finished’!”

Then at last week’s agile meetup, Sven mentioned that he’d like to do a similar exchange, but that it can be difficult to find a partner, if your company doesn’t have several people in the same role and you lack connections to other agile companies.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a place to look for such exchange partners? Our neighbors, the Software Craftmen, are already talking a lot about craftsmen swaps. We could copy that and make it more broad. Swapping jobs for weeks might work for Coaches and Scrum Masters, but is probably difficult for Product Owners. For them Pairing or even just passively observing are more viable options that still provide valuable insights. And while we’re at it, let’s include the lean practitioners as well!

There are many ways, such a platform could work. Here’s my concept:

TeamUp - Draft Continue reading

Posted in Agile / Lean, Fairly Good Practice, Kanban, Resource, Scrum, Software Craftsmanship | 5 Comments