31 May 2014

Steve Jobs - The Lost Interview

An absolutely thought provoking interview with an amazing visionary.

30 May 2014

Leadership Quotes - Growth

We learn something every day, and lots of times it's that what we learned the day before was wrong.
-Bill Vaughn on Growth

I've always maintained that any leader, whether they have been a leader for a couple of years or a couple of decades absolutely must remain teachable. So often I come across people in leadership roles that believe they have reached the top of the ladder and now know it all, and I feel sorry for them because they have forgotten the simple truth that nothing ever remains the same, there will always be a lesson to learn and they will miss the opportunity to absorb that new lesson into their future character, and will be left behind while others move on.

23 May 2014

Leadership Quotes - Encouragement

There is no such thing as a 'self made man'. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.
-George Mathew Adams on Encouragement

You often hear motivational speakers say that you should surround yourself with the right people and I have to agree. I also believe that as leaders we need to take care that we are having the right impact on the people we influence.

19 May 2014

Book Review - Letters from Leaders

As the cover describes it, Letters from Leaders is a collation of 'Personal Advice for Tomorrow's Leaders from the World's Most Influential People'. Pulled together by Henry O. Dormann editor in chief for LEADERS magazine, this book is a must have for any leaders bookshelf.

The book itself is made of very high quality materials and feels like it will last a good while even with much use, and if you have this book you will be coming back to it often. The real value of the book is of course in the content and not the physical materials and here Dormann has not failed to bring us a collection of wisdom from all corners of business, sport, religion, politics. It's a who's who of success including Mohamed Ali, King Abdullah II King of Jordan, Beth Brooke, Walter Cronkite Vladimir Putin, George W Bush.

You can easily read the book cover to cover slowly eating through the letters one by one, or jump in and see what any particular author has to say. Occasionally Dormann has included a copy of the original letter as a foldout page which really does bring a nice element to the book making it feel like something quite special.

The letters themselves are fantastic nuggets of wisdom gained over many years with many lessons learned, you won't fail to find some form of encouragement or guidance that will help make you a better leader, assuming you allow the seeds to take root.

Published by The Lyons Press you can get the book from Amazon US here ($17 hardback) or from Amazon UK here (£15 hardback), there is a paperback and Kindle version of the book available which I've not had my hands on but if you are able to get the hardback version I recommend it as it really is a wonderful book.

If you have any other books or sites in your collection like this, leave a link in the comments I know I'd like to see them.

17 May 2014

Leadership Quotes - Introduction

Leadership quotes is a series I'm starting through which I hope to pass on thoughts and quotes from various sources with the goal of providing a resource for growing leaders current and future. I maintain a small notebook full of inspiring thoughts and quotes that I read through from time to time as a way of centering and evaluating my own leadership skills.

I believe it's important to take time out on a regular basis to evaluate where we stand and the direction we are going a retrospective of self, if you like. What am I doing right and should maintain? What am I doing wrong and should change? Two questions I regularly ask myself so that I can stay relevant to my teams, but also so I may ensure that I am not a leader of words but a Leader of action.

I was inspired to run this series when I found some old print outs from the "Excellence In Leadership Quotes" newsletters that Jay Ramirez ran back in the 90s with the same goal.

This week I leave you with this:
The person who trims themselves to suit everybody will soon whittle themselves away.
-Charles M. Schwab on integrity 

14 May 2014

An alternative approach to the daily stand up

As we know, the daily stand up covers three key points:
  • What did you achieve yesterday?
  • What will you be trying to achieve today?
  • What blocking issues do you have?
Normally each person in the team covers all three questions in turn, until everyone has said their piece. I was wondering today though whether it is better to approach this differently. Would it be more effective to go round the team a point at a time, by which I mean everyone first covers an update on what was done yesterday, clarifying the overall picture of current progress, and then each covers any risks or blocking issues and finally each covers the plan for today agreeing an overall goal for the team.

Effectively the tam as a whole would be able to answer the three points:
  • Yesterday we achieved x
  • We have found the following issues and think this is how we work round them
  • Today we plan to do y
What are your thoughts on the daily stand up?
Could this approach work?

13 May 2014

Plans are useless...

Ever found your teams grumbling about the planning meeting at the beginning of an iteration? I know I have.

I was mindful of this recently when reading about Eisenhower this week and came across this quote:
"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable".

I believe that what he was saying here is that the act of planning, the communication itself, discussing the angles, raising the various possibilities for failure and options for avoiding them, is by far the most valuable aspect of the planning process. The resulting plan itself is actually of little worth because it is highly likely that you'll need to change the plan in response to an unforeseen challenge.

Our planning meetings have to be highly interactive events where the team is able to engage in good discussion covering how they are going to turn the backlog into real working software, not necessarily covering every story in great detail but definitely pulling together an idea of how they are going to get from A to B and raising as many risks they can think of. The result is a plan but more than that, each member of the team is equipped with valuable knowledge that allows them to stay in tune with the progress and alert to the effect any risks may be having on that plan so they can confidently react to any need for changing it as they go.

Of course the main planning meeting is not the end of it, the team needs the opportunity to regularly refocus, update and re-plan if necessary as they work their way through the iteration and as we know the daily stand up is precisely for that purpose. Fifteen minutes of concentrated planning in the form of an update on whats done and an agreement of whats next along with an acknowledgement of current risk.

It seems obvious to me that Eisenhower was absolutely right, it's not about the plan it's all about the planning.