Linda Rising Presentation Straw Poll

Linda Rising will be coming to Agile Coaching Circles in June.  Please select the presentation you are interested in hearing (poll is at bottom of page).  Thanks

– Chris

1. Myths and Patterns of Organizational Change

You have great ideas. You’re smart. The people in your organization are smart. Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc — the rest is easy — simply make a transition plan and transparently explain the benefits. These and other organizational change myths will be tackled by Linda’s talk about patterns for introducing new ideas. She will provide some useful tips for helping you start on Monday morning to grow, step by step, any innovation.

2. Science or Stories?

Smart people are logical and objective. They (we) look at the evidence to help make the best possible decisions. We are not influenced by hype or emotion and as a result our behavior reflects the best the world has to offer. Cognitive science now tells us that these beliefs about ourselves and others (especially scientists) are wrong. All of us tend to make decisions based on intuition or emotion and then justify those decisions later with logic, a process called rationalization. The most influential element in our environment is not scientific evidence but stories. We love stories. Research shows that we are more likely to buy a product or embrace a process because of a friend, colleague, or relative and ignore evidence that might go against that decision. Are these bad things? Is there anything we can do about it? We have a long history of being influenced by stories and it has helped us survive. Linda suggests that the real answer is we need both approaches — stories and emotion + evidence and logic. Both approaches have flaws and benefits. Linda will share examples and tell her own stories to try to convince you and try to help us do a better job of making decisions.

3. The Power of an Agile Mindset

I’ve wondered for some time whether much of Agile’s success was the result of the placebo effect, that is, good things happened because we believed they would. The placebo effect is a startling reminder of the power our minds have over our perceived reality. Now cognitive scientists tell us that this is only a small part of what our minds can do. Research has identified what I like to call “an agile mindset,” an attitude that equates failure and problems with opportunities for learning, a belief that we can all improve over time, that our abilities are not fixed but evolve with effort. What’s surprising about this research is the impact of an agile mindset on creativity and innovation, estimation, and collaboration in and out of the workplace. I’ll relate what’s known about this mindset and share some practical suggestions that can help all of us become even more agile.

4. Incentives: why or why not?

It’s surprising how little of the research around incentives has made it into practice. There’s widespread belief that the debate is around carrots vs. sticks or if it’s carrots or sticks, what kind of carrots or sticks. It’s also surprising how the understanding of this fundamental topic eludes many well-respected, experienced practitioners and coaches. Many managers (and parents) have NOT read Alfie Kohn’s book, Punished by Rewards, even though it was published in 1993. Now there’s even more research to show what incentives work (and don’t work) for individuals and teams. This presentation will attempt to bring in the latest and help those of us who care about development teams to learn what works best.

5. Tips from Psychology for Problem-solving and Decision-making

Unfortunately, those of us who struggle with complex problems for a living don’t have time to keep up with the enormous amount of cognitive science research that could help us become better thinkers, better problem solvers, and better decision makers. Having devoted more than ten years to researching the fast-moving fields that almost daily reveal new information, Linda shares what she has uncovered—some of it surprising, some even counterintuitive. She summarizes the research and provides concrete tips for improving your individual, team, and organizational abilities. Most of us sit all day, believing that concentrating without moving, in a room with no natural light, drinking too much caffeine, after our usual night of less than six hours of sleep is the way to get work done. Linda offers ways to incorporate movement, take a break, change focus, brighten our environments, think better, and be happier. Learn the latest tips for boosting your problem-solving power.

6. Agile: Placebo or Real Solution?

The power of the placebo is based on our brain’s belief system. Because we believe the medication can work it does. I wonder if there is some of that placebo effect in our successes with agile? Could it be that all the results are really a matter of proper expectation? It often seems that the software industry is seeking one magic potion after another. We embrace the latest and greatest and hope it will cure our ills. Is agile just the latest elixir?

7. Are Agilists the Bonobos of Software Development??

Chimpanzees and bonobos are the animals whose genetic make-up is closest to that of human beings, but their “cultures” (yes, animals definitely do have well-defined cultures) are very different. The chimpanzees are aggressive, and operate in a strict alpha male-dominated hierarchy, while the bonobos are gentle and promiscuous!! What sort of tie-in could this have for those of us who favor agile over plan-driven development?

8. The Power of Retrospection

Project Retrospectives are an important part of any software development process. The Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto state that, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” How can this be done? By taking the time to reflect and learn and proactively determine what should be done differently in the next iteration, release, or project. Linda’s presentation will introduce techniques for project retrospectives, whether they are agile or not. The techniques help teams discover what they’re doing well so that successful practices can continue and identify what should be done differently to improve performance. Retrospectives are not finger pointing or blaming sessions, but rather a highly effective process in which teams reflect on the past to become more productive in the future. Linda will share her experiences with leading retrospectives of several kinds for dozens of projects—successful and unsuccessful, small and large, in academia and industry. Her lessons learned can be applied to any project to enable teams and organizations to become learning organizations.

9. Deception and Estimation: How We Fool Ourselves

Cognitive scientists tell us that we are hardwired for deception—overly optimistic about outcomes. In fact, we surely wouldn’t have survived without this trait. With this built-in bias as a starting point, it’s no wonder that software managers and teams almost always develop poor estimates. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. We must simply accept that our estimates are optimistic guesses and continually re-evaluate as we go. Linda Rising has been part of many development projects where sincere, honest people wanted to make the best estimates possible and used “scientific” approaches to make it happen—and all for naught. In many projects, because re-estimation was regarded as an admission of failure, the team spent too much time and endless meetings trying to “get it right.” Offering examples from ordinary life—especially from the way people eat and drink—Linda demonstrates how hard it is for us to see our poor estimating skills and offers practical advice on living and working with the self-deception that is hardwired in all of us.

10. Coffee, Tea, or Agile?

Some observers of historical trends have suggested that the Industrial Revolution could not have happened without coffee and tea. Heating water for a daily jolt of caffeine enabled workers to be more in control of their waking hours and also to have longer lives because drinking water that has been boiled means the consumer is less likely to swallow the toxic soup that early water supplies presented for consumption. Control of working and waking is what the Industrial Age was all about. Is it time for a truly agile approach to how we work and live our lives? What would that mean? No coffee/tea/Diet Coke/Red Bull? What are the real penalties we are paying for force fitting Industrial Age (plan-driven) living into agile development? Is there really a way to have it all? What’s the best way to be happy and healthy and productive?

11. Who do You Trust? Beware of Your Brain

Cognitive scientists tell us that we are more productive and happier when our behavior matches our brain’s hardwiring—when what we do and why we do it matches the way we have evolved to survive over tens of thousands of years. One problematic behavior humans have is that we are hardwired to instantly decide who we trust. And we generally aren’t aware of these decisions—it just happens. Linda Rising explains that this hardwired “trust evaluation” can get in the way of working well with others. Pairing, the daily stand-up, and close communication with the customer and others outside the team go a long way to overcome our instant evaluation of others. As Linda helps you gain a better understanding of this mechanism in your behavior and what agile processes can do to help, you are more likely to build better interpersonal relationships and create successful products.

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