3 Feedback Models

Feedback is important. Only by knowing how our actions affect others do we know what works and what doesn’t. Feedback becomes more effective, when it is frequent, timely and specific.

  • Frequent
    Giving feedback only at quarterly or yearly reviews wastes a lot of time during which people could already have improved. Weekly One-on-Ones (that I recently proclaimed my undying love for) are a great opportunity to provide or get feedback.
  • Timely
    You don’t have to wait for the One-on-One. Give feedback when the event occurs and both parties still remember what it’s about.
  • Specific
    “The was a great presentation!” is not as helpful as “The part with the examples was great!” is not as helpful as “The part with the examples was great! I think this helped everyone to orientate and get started quickly.”

The “specific” bit is the one I struggle with the most. Fortunately the following three feedback models help me with that:

1) Situation – Behaviour – Impact

Applicable after you’ve witnessed specific behaviour. Even suited when you do not have formal authority with someone, because you’re not telling them what to do. You merely mirror their behaviour back to them as factual as possible.


  • In the meeting, when you started to sketch on the whiteboard you really helped getting everyone on the same page.
  • In the meeting, when your cell rang and you answered it, it distracted us all a lot.

2) What worked well – Even better if

Continue reading

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One-on-Ones in Agile (Transitions)

Have you ever had regular One-on-Ones (“O3s”)? If not, I think you’re missing out. Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne describe them as:

  • 30 minute conversation every (other) week
  • Between a manager and one of her team members. (Each team member gets their own O3 each week.)
  • Default time division: 10 minutes team members topics, 10 minutes managers topics, 10 minutes for coaching or mentoring

Now that I finally experienced O3s, I agree with Mark and Mike that they are the “single most effective management tool“.

Here’s what I think is awesome about O3s for the team member:

  • It’s a very close feedback loop – You always know whether what you’re doing contributes to the company’s overarching goal
    • Which for me goes hand in hand with “Having Purpose”
  • Validation – You are important enough for your boss to take time to listen to you
  • Guaranteed sync point – You don’t have to disturb your boss because you know there’s a time to tackle all non-urgent issues in the O3

As the manager you can: Continue reading

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“Verständlich Schreiben” – Workshop am 13. April in Düsseldorf

[English Summary: On April 13th, I’m giving a workshop on writing that follows the tips in this article.]

Wir alle freuen uns über gute Doku, wenn wir etwas Neues lernen. Doch wie sieht es mit der Doku für unsere eigenen Projekte aus? Ist sie a) vorhanden und b) verständlich geschrieben?

Gut zu schreiben kann man lernen. Darum gebe ich am 13. April einen Workshop in dem wir “fertige” Texte in mehreren Schritten verbessern. Bring also gerne Deine vorhandenen Texte mit! Es muss auch nicht unbedingt eine Dokumentation sein, da die meisten Regeln für alle Arten von Text gelten. Für alle die noch keine Texte haben bringt Corinna Übungstexte mit.

Das Überarbeiten geht am besten mit einem Laptop. Alternativ kannst Du auf totem Baum mitmachen.

Zeit: Samstag, 13. April 2013 – 15 Uhr
Ort: Chaosdorf, Hüttenstr. 25 in Düsseldorf

Spoiler: Der Workshop orientiert sich an diesem Artikel von Su-Shee

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Agile Stammtische in Düsseldorf und Umgebung

[English Summary: A list of meetups on Agile or Lean topics in Düsseldorf – where I live – and its surrounding cities.]

Heute habe ich zum zweiten Mal eine Liste aller agil angehauchten Stammtische in meiner Umgebung zusammengestellt. Sobald ich etwas zwei Mal mache, wittere ich ein Pattern. Vielleicht ist die Liste ja für noch mehr Leute interessant. Here we go:

Allen die sich auch für CleanCode und Software-Craftsmanship interessieren, lege ich die Softwerkskammer Duesseldorf ans Herz, mein zweiter Heimat-Stammtisch.

Ausserdem gibt es jeden Tag mindestens drölf IT-bezogene Treffen rund um Köln auf Nerdhub.

Viel Spaß bei einem der Stammtische! Vielleicht sehen wir uns ja mal 🙂

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Minimum Viable Customer

Every once in a while I think about developing a product and / or founding a company. Up until 5 years ago I thought “the idea” would be crucial – that the product idea would make the difference between failure and success. Then I realized that ideas are cheap and the hard part is follow-through: To pick one idea – out of the millions of ideas out there -, make it a reality and sustain it. That’s the hard part!

Along came the book “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries:

The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It’s about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it’s too late.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? You’ve got an idea, test it, implement a minimum viable product, hone it and are hopefully successful. And yes, it does make sense, but it still has the premise of “idea first”; even if it incorporates that your initial idea and the product you end up with, won’t have much in common.

Last month I discovered that you can also arrive at a successful product from a very different starting point: Amy Hoy makes a case for choosing your customers first and then creating a product for them. Instead of a Minimum Viable Product find Minimum Viable Customers! *mind blown* Continue reading

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Die Rolle des Product Owners – Kurz und bündig

[English Summary: I’ve translated Henrik Kniberg’s excellent “Product Owner in a Nutshell” into German. Next post will be in English again, pinkie promise!]

Kennt ihr schon Henrik Knibergs exzellentes Video zur Rolle des Product Owners? Falls nicht, lege ich es euch sehr ans Herz. Jetzt sogar auf mit – frisch übersetzten – deutschen Untertiteln:

Ich bedanke mich herzlich bei Cédric Chevalerias für die französische Datei als Vorlage und hinterher das Video mit eingebetteten Untertiteln.

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Why I like “Number of completed stories” as a metric

… or Small stories kick ass!

In his superb video explaining the role of the Product Owner Henrik Kniberg chooses “Number of completed stories” to measure the teams capacity (velocity). He mentions story points, but chooses a less widespread measure. Why did he choose it? Don’t know. I only know that I would make the same choice:

Any metric can be gamed. Story points are especially easy to game, as the amounts are only meaningful within one team. And it takes just one ill-timed “Why isn’t the velocity going up?” to kick-off story point inflation.

But hey, can’t “Number of completed stories” be gamed just as easily? The team just has to make the stories smaller.

Why, yes. Precisely! It’s a metric I want teams to game!

In my experience it’s difficult for “fresh” agile teams to cut stories down. It’s a skill that grows with practise. People not accustomed to splitting stories into nice vertical slices tend to think it’s not possible. And they often don’t see the value in it, so they don’t really try.

Pointing out the value I see doesn’t necessarily help, although small stories…

  • … are more thought-through
  • … have less open questions
  • … have a lower probability to turn out way bigger than expected
  • … contain less uncertainty and bad surprises
  • … have a higher chance of being completed in one sprint
  • … are more focused on value-adding functionality
  • … easier to talk about Continue reading
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