This is a great article and a cool company …. I’ll just share this paragraph and leave it at that!

Today’s fastest growing, most profoundly impactful companies are using a completely different operating model. These companies are lean, mean, learning machines. They have an intense bias to action and a tolerance for risk, expressed through frequent experimentation and relentless product iteration. They hack together products and services, test them, and improve them, while their legacy competition edits PowerPoint. They are obsessed with company culture and top tier talent, with an emphasis on employees that can imagine, build, and test their own ideas. They are maniacally focused on customers. They are hypersensitive to friction – in their daily operations and their user experience. They are open, connected, and build with and for their community of users and co-conspirators. They are comfortable with the unknown – business models and customer value are revealed over time. They are driven by a purpose greater than profit; each has its own aspirational “dent in the universe.” We may simply refer to them as the first generation of truly responsive organizations.

Speaking of trust: I wonder … Does it translate to the workplace as well?

A prediction by some social scientists that the trauma of September 11, 2001, would usher in an era of greater cooperativeness among Americans appears to have been incorrect, according to a team led by Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University. The team’s study of 37,000 people shows that trust in others, as well as in institutions such as health organizations, government, and the media, fell to a historic low in 2012, the last year for which data was available. The decline in trust may be attributable to the widening gap between rich and poor in the U.S., the researchers say.

SOURCE: Declines in Trust in Others and Confidence in Institutions Among American Adults and Late Adolescents, 1972–2012

In leading a team, and inspiring creativity, in motivating people and co-workers, trust is critical. Trust is an important value in SCRUM. I was once being interviewed for a new position in a company. The interviewer was complaining about the work of one of their graphic designers. He hadn’t hit a critical deadline. They have daily stand ups, where obstacles are meant to be shared, but he hadn’t indicated any troubles. She didn’t understand why. So, I asked, “How is the trust?” She answered, “Well, there’s none now — he basically just screwed it up!” — She didn’t get it. I was asking, “How is the trust from you, in your communication and a staff member’s ability to speak of obstacles, or failures, without blame?” Not likely very high.

Roderick Kramer has a good article in Stanford Business on how trustworthy leaders behave. I suggest it as a good, and brief, read — But here are some bullet points:

  • They project confidence, competence, and benevolence.
  • They say — and show — that trust is an important company value.
  • They establish clear roles and systems to speed trust.
  • They share the credit, and they take the blame.
  • They don’t mask a crisis.

Great points, great insight!

Why not?

A realization came to me — an inkling of insight and inspiration of which I do not want to let go. It was spurred by a set of questions I was asked to answer recently, related to work/a job. The question, “How technical does a technical project manager need to be?” discussed in my previous post was one of them.

Here’s the deal, I should have done it 5 years ago, should have done it 20 years ago, but the best time to start something you haven’t started is … today. I am learning to code and I am starting with Python.

Motivation? A few things I know about what I want:

  • I thrive/work best, enjoy most a small, tight, collaborative, and trusting team — working on/producing something good — something that makes a difference.
  • I have been working as an application development manager for the past eight+ years, so I understand the language of software, and the process of development, and I have experience from years past with writing code — Thus my 0.1 starting point.
  • If flow/focus/lost track of time is an indicator of personal work enjoyment, as it is often said, then — though I have felt such in the graphic production of newspapers, I have felt it most, many, many years ago, in the writing and analysis of code.
  • I want work/a job/a means of revenue allowing a “walk-about” life-style. i.e. I don’t want to necessarily work in an office, I want to work wherever I want; I don’t want to work ‘for’ but rather ‘with;’ I want to serve / to assist in solving someone/some people’s problem.
  • In a word, I want “freedom”– and fulfillment … I guess that’s two words, but you get the picture!

I think I’ll write code.

And damn, did you know that Python is named after Monty Python? How can you argue with that??

How technical does a technical project manager need to be?

I was asked this question recently. Below is my unedited response — What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss the mark? Feedback on this is welcome!

The skills that make a project manager good, in my opinion, are listening; an ability to connect and interact collaboratively with others; an ability to understand issues & situations quickly; the ability to clarify, to get to the simplest level possible on an issue; the ability to prioritize — or facilitate prioritizing — to communicate those priorities both to business and to your team; the willingness to reach out for knowledge or help; the willingness to look to and depend upon the expertise of your team; the awareness required to know, or know when to ask, when a team member needs help or learning; the wherewithal to find resources in support of the needs of your team; and the ability to make a decision and defend it when required. My experience says possessing those skills can allow an individual to manage a technical project, a production project, even a construction project.

There is depth of knowledge and complexity within any project or industry — I would argue that it is definitely an advantage, as a Technical Project Manager, to be technically adept, to have experience working with, understanding, and learning the processes and tools of the technology, in this case, application development. But lack of these need not be an obstacle to a well-skilled and experienced project manager, as listening, learning, and individual interactions are, in my opinion, the primary requirements for success.

For my part, I happen to have the technical acumen and experience. But I have been willing, and successful, in coaching the non-technical in project facilitation around technical projects, for instance, online course development. My Project Facilitators have no idea how the technical work gets done in the development of an online course, but they are very good at working with the team on goals, impediments, and moving the project forward. I don’t think their being experienced in the intricacies of instructional technology would mark any improvement in their performance. Likely, it could be an obstacle, as they might spend more time debating approach then facilitating solutions for those who are experienced in the technology!

The Great Abyss from The Music Bed on Vimeo.

“When you make something, you wonder: Will it stay at the top? Will it speak to people? Will it lose its relevance? But you can’t worry about those things. You have to create things that are truthful to yourself.”

“Every artist has some form of insecurity about what they create.”

“Creativity is not for yourself. It’s to serve others.”

Reference kudos: The Art of Non-Conformity — Chris Guillebeau, author, world-traveler, revolutionary + inspiring thinker.



Book by Jonathan Fields. Take a look at the Video Trailer, then maybe buy the book! — Turning Fear & Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance

This is a great read in Forbes — and not long! — by Edward D. Hess of Batten Institute at UVa’s Darden School of Business: Why Is Innovation So Hard?

A few choice excerpts:

How does innovation occur? Through an inefficient process of ideation, exploration, and experimentation.

Innovative thinking, like critical thinking, does not come naturally to most people … As Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman stated,  “Laziness is built deep into our nature.” As a result, we are cognitively blind to disconfirming data and challenging ideas. In addition, our thinking is limited by our tendency to rationalize information that contradicts our beliefs and by many cognitive biases.

Thinking differently is also hard emotionally … Fear is one of the emotions that comes all too naturally to most of us—and makes it hard for us to engage in the messy work of innovation. Fear of failure, fear of looking bad, and fear of losing our job if we make mistakes all can lead to what Chris Argyris called “defensive reasoning”: the tendency to defend what we believe

… in order to innovate we need to change our attitude toward failures and mistakes. Contrary to what many of us have been taught, avoiding failure is not a sign that we’re smart. Being smart is not about knowing all the answers and performing flawlessly. Being smart is knowing what you don’t know, prioritizing what you need to know, and being very good at finding the best evidence-based answers …

To innovate, you must simultaneously tolerate mistakes and insist on operational excellence. Many businesses struggle with implementing that dual mentality.

I am always intrigued by reminders that we are all so human and still driven by biology and chemistry. In this article Judith E. Glaser highlights the neurochemistry behind a particular challenge of leadership, management, and collaboration: We can become addicted to the neurochemical feeling bestowed by being right, and we can let that chemical payoff impact our ability to listen, to encourage others, and to collaborate.

I’ve coached dozens of incredibly successful leaders who suffer from this addiction. They are extremely good at fighting for their point of view (which is indeed often right) yet they are completely unaware of the dampening impact that behavior has on the people around them. If one person is getting high off his or her dominance, others are being drummed into submission, experiencing the fight, flight, freeze or appease response I described before, which diminishes their collaborative impulses.

Ms. Glasner prescribes some exercises to help one overcome this addiction: Setting rules of engagement, listening with empathy, planning who speaks. These are good.

In general, I would encourage you (us) to be aware of this possible addiction — to pause, check yourself — what’s driving your need to be right? If there is a question as to that answer, then stop talking for a bit and simply listen.

Reference kudos: Hugh MacLeod, creative genius at


image credit:

I am forever exploring, and experimenting with, ways to apply Agile to the development of online courses (as well as other content/learning related projects and products). Yesterday, I stumbled upon the term “LLAMA” and I love it!!

LLAMA = “Lot Like Agile Method Approach”

I am not 100% sure its origination, by it seems to be at the center of work done by the folk at Torrance Learning, so that’s where I’d go first. Speaking of which, if interested, you should definitely read this article by Megan Torrance in Learning Solutions Magazine: Reconciling ADDIE and Agile