All posts by KentMcDonald

Writer & product manager helping product people deliver powerful internal products. #Ubersherpa to my family, listens to jazz and podcasts (but not necessarily podcasts about jazz), and collects national parks.

Who is talking about Business Agility?

You can tell that an idea is starting to catch on when different people or groups start trying to advance it independent of each other.

The advantage of that is people who hang out in different circles find out about the idea. The downside is that they run a chance of finding out wildly different views about that idea to the point when people from those different circles start talking to each other, they can’t tell whether they are even talking about the same thing.

Business Agility is in that territory right now.

I defined business agility for Agile Alliance’s Agile Glossary as:

Business agility is the ability of an organization to sense changes internally or externally and respond accordingly in order to deliver value to its customers.

Business agility is not a specific methodology or even a general framework. It’s a description of how an organization operates through embodying a specific type of growth mindset that is very similar to the agile mindset often described by members of the agile software development community.

There are at least three different views of Business Agility of which I’m aware. I suspect there are others. They have some common themes, primarily the ability of organizations to respond to change and a focus on their customers. They also have some differences.

Agile Alliance

Agile Alliance has an initiative, facilitated by a group of current and former business leaders focused on identifying and sharing methods to explore the adoption of the Agile mindset and methods in the enterprise.

The initiative includes a monthly webinar that connects business leaders to the Agile community to share perspectives and insight of how Agile works within a business and an ongoing worldwide narrative-based retrospective of Agile and business. The goal of the program is to identify both positive and negative stories from the agile community and to work to amplify what makes Agile work well for business.

ICAgile And the Business Agility Conference

The International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) has added a Business Agility Track to their Learning Roadmap that will provide a path toward a business agility certification.

ICAgile presented the Business Agility Conference in 2017 The conference was 2½ days of authentic short stories and facilitated deep dives on business agility; focusing on organizational design, market disruption and product innovation, agile outside IT and next generation leadership. You can get the videos from the 2017 conference from InfoQ.

Evan Leybourn the conference chair of Business Agility Conference 2017 described business agility in the article Domains of Business Agility. In that article, you can find the following comment:

“If, and until such time as, there is a Business Agility manifesto, the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto apply across all areas of the organisation with one minor modification.”

He posted that article in May, 2017. By September, a Business Agility Manifesto showed up.

A Business Agility Manifesto

In September 2017, Roger Burlton, Ron Ross and John Zachman published the a Business Agility Manifesto with plans to “officially” announce the manifesto at the 2017 Building Business Capability Conference (BBC). The manifesto includes a few supplements, including the SideBar for IT Project Professionals which appears to try and address several agile adoption anti patterns.

Making Sense of these Perspectives

If your organization is trying to implement business agility, you’ll find some practical experiences and stories from the Agile Alliance efforts and the Business Agility Conference content. I haven’t seen much practical information from the Business Agility Manifesto, but then again manifestos are primarily intended to communicate principles and intent.

Did I miss any discussions about business agility? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash

A Collection of Manifestos

Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

A thought crossed my mind a couple of weeks back when I saw the announcement on LinkedIn about the Business Agility Manifesto.

“Oh great, another manifesto…”

(Full disclosure: I played a part in creating one of those manifestos, the Declaration of Interdependence.)

Then I wondered how many manifestos there are in the world of business and software. So in a bout of productive procrastination, I conducted a search. The results are listed below in an admittedly arbitrary organizational scheme. During the search, a couple of questions came to mind.

Why Write a Manifesto?

Manifestos are generally used to publicly declare principles and intentions and have been used for political purposes for several centuries. Geoff McDonald (no relation) compiled this list of famous manifestos which includes things such as the Bible, the US Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech”, and the Communist Manifesto.

One of the other items on that list is the Cluetrain Manifesto. This manifesto, originally posted online in 1999 spoke to the impact that the authors foresaw the internet having on business. It probably signals the start of a trend toward using manifestos to share principles outside of the political sphere.

The document that had even more of an impact on the manifesto trend in technology and business is the Manifesto for Agile Software Development written in 2001. The Agile Manifesto provided a statement of values and principles that became a focal point for the agile software development community to form around.

Since it’s original creation in 2001 the Agile Manifesto has been widely referenced and has inspired a host of additional manifestos, including a fair share of parodies.

People with a set of beliefs in some aspect of business or technology look at the spread of agile software development, attribute the spread to the presence of a manifesto and reason that if it worked for agile…

What makes a Successful Manifesto?

Since manifestos are intended to declare and spread the ideas of its authors. Therefore a successful manifesto is one that spreads those ideas wide and generates actions that are aligned with the ideas contained within.

If you look at the manifestos in the list below and see which ones are more well known than others, there are some possible patterns that contribute to success:

  • The manifesto resonates with people and expresses principles that they share.
  • The manifesto is simple and concise
  • The manifesto is created by a group of people from different organizations who may compete, but share the same values and principles
  • The manifesto is backed by a community where people can share ideas and experiences about how they’ve actually applied the ideas in the manifesto in their actual context.

Examples of manifestos that meet these criteria to some extent include: Manifesto for Agile Software Development, The Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship, and Modern Agile.

Here is a list of manifestos related to Business and Software. Please let me know if I’ve left any off.

Agile and Agility

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

The Declaration of Interdependence

Modern Agile

Product Agility

The Business Agility Manifesto

The Responsive Manifesto

Agile Manifesto Variations

The Waterfall Manifesto for Realistic Software Development

Manifesto for Half-Arsed Agile Software Development

Dark Manifesto for Agile Software Development

Software Development

The Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship

A Software Development Manifesto – Klipfolio

Manifesto for Responsible Software Development

The Reactive Manifesto

The Boring Software Manifesto

Manifesto for AntiFragile Software

Manifesto for Adoptable Software Development

The Good Eggs Software Development Manifesto

Manifesto for Minimalist Software Engineers

Manifesto for Async Software Development

The GNU Manifesto

Software Architecture Manifesto

SOA Manifesto

Software Gardening Manifesto

The Rugged Software Manifesto

Business Analysis

Business Analysis Manifesto (Xebia)

The Business Analyst Manifesto (Bridging the Gap)

The Business Analysis Manifesto (Business Exchnage)

Jeffrey Davidson’s BA Manifesto

The Lean Business Analysis Manifesto

The Junior Business Analyst Manifesto

User Experience

UX Manifesto

Testing

The Testing Manifesto

Continuous Testing Manifesto

Agile Testing Manifesto

GDS Agile Testing Manifesto

Testing Manifesto

The Open Source Test Manifesto

Project Management

The Pragmatic Manifesto for Project Management

The PMO Manifesto

 

Make a Habit of Reading Books You Enjoy

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

I look forward to those Sunday mornings when I can sit down with a cup of coffee and read through the Farnam Street Brain Food Newsletter. Farnam Street, founded by Shane Parrish, shares information on mental models, decision making, learning, reading, and the art of living. The material on the site provides a real, meaningful alternative from the crap that exists in other parts of the internet and social media.

This morning’s Brain Food newsletter caught my attention with it’s lead article Why You Shouldn’t Slog Through Books. A couple of years ago Farnam Street suggested a way to read more and make your way through large books: form a habit of reading at least 25 pages a day, every day. The thought was that if you keep that habit up, over time you will make some considerable progress through those huge volumes that you always wanted to read, but couldn’t find the time.

The post in this Sunday’s newsletter addressed two misconceptions about that first article. First, the 25 pages was a minimum not a maximum. Reading at least 25 pages will help you form a habit, and there will be many times where you’ll find yourself keep going.

Second, if you don’t find a book interesting, don’t keep reading it. Just because you’ve had a book recommended to you, or it’s a classic doesn’t mean you have to read it (unless this is my daughter reading this and the book is a homework assignment). Put the book aside – you may find it’s a better tie in with your interests later. Or, you may find that you can consume the book better in different ways – ie audio.

That second piece of advice especially caught my eye. I had started a quest to read Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy (affiliate link) and while I found the subject matter interesting, I also found that it couldn’t hold my attention reading it. I found myself switching back to the library on my Kindle App to see what other books I was missing out on while I was reading this one.

The Farnam Street Post helped me to remember that the way I consume history and large works like Russell’s book is to listen to them, not read them. So I downloaded the audible version of the book (affiliate link) and can now turn my attention to books I’ve been meaning to read and summarize for this site and for kbp.media.

I wasn’t previously aware of the 25 pages a day suggestion, so finding out about it comes at a great time. I was looking for a way to put my evenings at home to good use rather than roaming around social media getting irritated. This provides a nice path forward to make progress through my backlog of books and help me to identify ways to continue living an effective life.

The Five Year Plan

My wife and I have a plan.  This should not be surprising to anyone who knows us as we are both planners, though one is much more of a planner than the other.

Our plan is that by the time our daughter graduates from high school, we are able to go where we want to go, when we want to go there. In other words, we’re seeking to be location and schedule independent.

While it’s nice to dream of “early retirement” we’re going to probably need to do some sort of income generating activities.  My view is that I’ll always want to do something, so I want to make sure it’s something I enjoy that doesn’t require me to be in a specific location and to be tied to a specific schedule.

With my current gig I am mostly there. My wife has a little ways to go to get to that point.  My posts on effectiveness will cover the techniques I’ve used to get to location independence, what I’m working on to get to schedule independence, things we’re trying to get my wife there, and what we do to make the most of those opportunities.

I’ll admit, a lot of the tips and techniques that I’m going to share are things I’ve heard from the slew of personal improvement books, podcasts, blogs that are already out there.  So you may be wondering – why add to the overwhelming amount of content out there surrounding personal improvement.

That’s a good question, and one that I’ve struggled with for a while. I decided to go ahead with it because I provide a different perspective than a lot of the personal development and self help content out there.

First, I’m still going through the journey and will make some mistakes along the way.  I’ve found I do learn from mistakes, but I learn even more when I can talk through (or in this case write through) the lessons I’ve learned while they happen.

Second, while I have location independence, and I have a good income, that income is tied to a specific gig.  Many of the people I look to for personal development guidance have through one way or another removed the need for a a gig either because they had smash book sales, are bringing in revenue from course sales, had great investing success, or a combination of those things. I’m not there yet and I imagine a lot of people who also look at personal development information aren’t there yet either.  I can discuss how the personal development techniques I hear about work for someone in my context, and hopefully you’ll find that helpful.

Finally, I’m doing all this from a piece of paradise in the middle of Iowa, not a big city. That means that there are some time saving techniques and life hacks may not work exactly the same, and my role as #ubersherpa becomes even more important. At the same time, we’ve removed ourselves from some of the stressors that city life brings, so we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I encourage you to join me on my journey to fulfilling our five year plan. Hopefully you’ll be able to pick up some ideas along the way that will help you with whatever plans you have to lead your own effective life.

Satisfy needs instead of solving problems

The Daily Stoic newsletter for September 19, 2017 shared a common optical illusion that depending on how you looked at it could appear to be a couple of different things.

For the record, I saw the duck first, although with a little staring I was able to see the rabbit.  I’m not sure whether which animal you see first says anything about how your brain works, but the the fact that you can see multiple things in the image does.

The lesson here is that how you look at this illustration, and what you “see” resembles how our perceptions work. From the Daily Stoic newsletter:

Most of our perceptions about anything—people, situations, problems, anxieties—are like this. You can see a problem; or you can see an opportunity. You can see a crippling defeat, or you can see a fresh start. You can see the end, or you can see the beginning.

Your assessment is what changes.  The Stoics suggest that while you can’t control outside influences, you can control your reaction to them.  You can change how you think about them.

One change I’ve made over the past couple of years, and this has a lot to do with my work at kbp.media is that I talk about needs to satisfy rather than problems to solve.

To be clear, part of the reason I chose that language is because “needs to satisfy” is the way that concept is described in the Business Analysis Core Concept Model (BACCM) from IIBA. They were trying to make satisfying needs the standard (and admittedly shorter) way of saying “problems to solve and opportunities to exploit”.

 

If you look at it from a stoic perspective there’s another, perhaps greater reason.  You are no longer surrounded by problems.  Rather you help your customers by satisfying their needs.  You’re helping them move forward rather than just always getting them back even with everyone else (although there is certainly good that comes from that).

That small change in words can have a big impact on how you view your work, and the value you derive from it.  Give it a try.

The National Park Bucket List

One of the purposes of this site to share my experiences and lessons learned while trying to fulfill my quest to visit every single National Park in the United States.

Yes, every single one.

The quest started when I declared a bucket list to visit all of the National Parks in the United States.  Since it is a bucket list, the time frame initially was a long one – before I kick the bucket.  Since we originally created the bucket list item, we’ve refined the time frame a little bit, hopefully making it a bit more restrictive for reasons which should seem fairly clear.  Our aim is to visit every National Park by the time my daughter starts college (Fall of 2022).

For those of you who may be familiar with the National Park Service and all the various sites they manage across the United States, you may be thinking “Holy Cow!”  All these folks will be doing is traveling.  To set the record straight, I should point out that we are only visiting National Parks, those things noted in the Ken Burn’s documentary as “America’s Best Idea.”

There are currently 60 National Parks.  I say currently because in January 2013 that number changed from 58 to 59 when Pinnacles National Park was created and from 59 to 60 in February 2018 when the Gateway Arch was made a national park.  My father has asked me what will happen if a new national park is created.  Well, if it is created before we finish the list, we have to go, don’t we? Here is the full list of National Parks as well as when we visited them.

What this bucket list does not include are all of the National Monuments, National Preserves, National Historical Parks, National Historic Sites, International Historic Site, National Battlefield Parks, National Military Parks, National Battlefields, National Battlefield Site, National Memorials, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Lakeshores, National Rivers, National Reserves, National Parkways, National Historic and Scenic Trails, National Cemeteries, or National Heritage Areas.  That’s not to say that we won’t visit those places if we happen to be near by, but we’re not going to go out of our way to visit them for purposes of this bucket list.

What Constitutes a “Visit”?

As luck would have it, we did actually visit a few of the parks before we established the Bucket List.  (Those parks are marked with an asterisk by the visit date until we meet the criteria below).  To make sure we kept things above board,  we (my wife Beth and my daughter Paige) established the following rules.

  • We (at least one of the three of us) have to physically be in the National Park.
  • Proof of a visit is via the official stamp in my National Parks Passport which shows the date of my visit.  (This makes the Passport book a very precious commodity).  This is also an indication that one of us was actually in the Park Visitor Center
  • Preferably view the main sites in the National Park and go on at least one hike.

Those are the rules.  We tried to keep them simple and straightforward.

We obviously try to make the most of each trip because it would be kind of silly to make a long trip from say Iowa to Alaska solely to get a stamp.

We spend more time in some parks over others.  The shortest time spent in any of the parks was probably Cuyahoga National Park.  I spent a couple of hours there in March while on a trip to Cleveland for a speaking engagement.  I at least went and saw Brandywine Falls.  Probably the longest we have spent at any Park is Rocky Mountain National Park – we have been there four times – twice for a week at a time.  As you could probably suspect, that’s our favorite.

Our National Park Roster

As of July, 2018, we’ve visited 33/60.

Name

Location

Date formed

When Visited

Acadia Maine

February 26, 1919

July 2010

American Samoa American Samoa

October 31, 1988

Arches Utah

November 12, 1971

March 2012

Badlands South Dakota

November 10, 1978

July 2012

Big Bend Texas

June 12, 1944

January 2013

Biscayne Florida

June 28, 1980

 November 2016
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Colorado

October 21, 1999

March 2012

Bryce Canyon Utah

February 25, 1928

March 2014

Canyonlands Utah

September 12, 1964

March 2012

Capitol Reef Utah

December 18, 1971

March 2012

Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico

May 14, 1930

Channel Islands California

March 5, 1980

Congaree South Carolina

November 10, 2003

July 2018
Crater Lake Oregon

May 22, 1902

Cuyahoga Valley Ohio

October 11, 2000

March 2012

Death Valley California, Nevada

October 31, 1994

 March 2013
Denali Alaska

February 26, 1917

 August 2016
Dry Tortugas Florida

October 26, 1992

Everglades Florida

May 30, 1934

 November 2016
Gates of the Arctic Alaska

December 2, 1980

Gateway Arch Missouri

February, 2018

Glacier Montana

May 11, 1910

 June 2017
Glacier Bay Alaska

December 2, 1980

June 1995*

Grand Canyon Arizona

February 26, 1919

Grand Teton Wyoming

February 26, 1929

July 2009*
June 2015

Great Basin Nevada

October 27, 1986

Great Sand Dunes Colorado

September 13, 2004

March 2012

Great Smoky Mountains North Carolina, Tennessee

June 15, 1934

June 2018
Guadalupe Mountains Texas

October 15, 1966

Haleakalā Hawaii

August 1, 1916

February 2000*
February 2015

Hawaii Volcanoes Hawaii

August 1, 1916

 February 2015
Hot Springs Arkansas

March 4, 1921

December 2012

Isle Royale Michigan

March 3, 1931

 August 2014
Joshua Tree California

October 31, 1994

 March 2013
Katmai Alaska

December 2, 1980

Kenai Fjords Alaska

December 2, 1980

 August 2016
Kings Canyon California

March 4, 1940

Kobuk Valley Alaska

December 2, 1980

Lake Clark Alaska

December 2, 1980

Lassen Volcanic California

August 9, 1916

Mammoth Cave Kentucky

July 1, 1941

Mesa Verde Colorado

June 29, 1906

Mount Rainier Washington

March 2, 1899

August 2013

North Cascades Washington

October 2, 1968

Olympic Washington

June 29, 1938

Petrified Forest Arizona

December 9, 1962

Pinnacles California

January 10, 2013

Redwood California

October 2, 1968

Rocky Mountain Colorado

January 26, 1915

November 2002
July 2008
July 2009
March 2012

Saguaro Arizona

October 14, 1994

Sequoia California

September 25, 1890

Shenandoah Virginia

May 22, 1926

June 2018
Theodore Roosevelt North Dakota

November 10, 1978

July 2012

Virgin Islands United States Virgin Islands

August 2, 1956

Voyageurs Minnesota

January 8, 1971

August 2014

Wind Cave South Dakota

January 9, 1903

July 2012

Wrangell –St. Elias Alaska

December 2, 1980

Yellowstone Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

March 1, 1872

July 2009*
June 2015

Yosemite California

October 1, 1890

 October 2015
Zion Utah

November 19, 1919

 March 2014