Jean Tabaka on the Golden Circle of Agile & StackExchange for project management

Last week a group of us went along to see Jean Tabaka (from Rally Software Development) presentation at a special Agile Welly Meet-up.

The event was an interactive session called Tell Me Why: The Golden Circle of Agile Transformation. Casting aside the traditional slide deck, Jean used Simon Sinek’s golden circle model to get us talking about the What, How and Why of our adoption and use of Agile methodologies. We organised ourselves into small groups and went through three rounds of discussion.

First, we talked about the what. What have we done that tells us we’re doing Agile? So, things like writing user stories and acceptance criteria, and holding stand-ups and running retrospectives – these are the practices (or rituals) that we perform when we’re doing Agile.

Then we talked about the how. How do we know which practices we should be using, or trying to improve? So things like, if a product owner keeps rejecting delivered work, maybe we need to look at the way acceptance criteria and done definitions are being stated, because there seems to be gap between what the developers are hearing and the product owner is seeing. Or things like holding regular product backlog grooming sessions, so we know we’re always working on the most important features for our product. As Jean observed, this is how you avoid getting trapped in cargo cult Agile – going through all the right motions, but not seeing the expected benefits.

In that discussion, we started digging into the principles of Agile – the why. Why is it that we and our organisations have decided to adopt Agile? For some people it was about increasing returns, or decreasing risks; for some, it was about improving the quality and timeliness of work delivered; for some, it was about team morale. Everything about your take up of Agile needs to stem from this why – if you don’t know why you’re doing something, why bother?

Back at work I started reading over the Rally blog, and found this post from Jean about being a newbie on the Project Management StackExchange. This is one of 50-plus question and answer sites on the StackExchange network, where people can ask and answer questions on specific topics. The StackExchange sites are known for their exemplary community management (and Jean’s post gives a great insight into how this works). In fact, one of my favourite Webstock 2010 talk was Jeff Atwood’s Stack Overflow: Building Social Software for the Anti-Social, about creating the first of these sites, devoted to programmers and their detailed technical questions.

Having a quick browse through the PM StackExchange, I found some interesting threads on topics like whether there’s data to show that planning poker produces better estimates than individuals, how to handle an argumentative team member, and how to avoid micro-managing a dev team. Appropriately for project management – where the job is to figure out the best system for the situation you’re in, the thing you’re building, and the team you’re working with – the answers are often opinions or sharing of experiences rather than flat-out dictums. Maybe soon I’ll quit lurking and post a question of my own.

Data data everywhere: Pew Internet on social networking sites and A List Apart on the web design industry

If you like tables and percentages, you’re in luck: two chewy releases in the past couple of weeks are going to give you hours of happy data crunching.

Social networking and our lives

Pew Internet have recently released their report ‘Social networking sites and our lives’, which updates the findings of their 2009 report ‘Social Isolation and New Technologies‘. In their introduction, the writers note:

Questions have been raised about the social impact of widespread use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. Do these technologies isolate people and truncate their relationships? Or are there benefits associated with being connected to others in this way? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project decided to examine SNS in a survey that explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.

2,255 American adults were surveyed between October 20-November 28 2010 for the report, including 1,787 internet users. Of these, there were 975 users of social networking sites. One of the great things about the Pew research is how carefully they control their findings to account for different factors:

The findings presented here paint a rich and complex picture of the role that digital technology plays in people’s social worlds. Wherever possible, we seek to disentangle whether people’s varying social behaviors and attitudes are related to the different ways they use social networking sites, or to other relevant demographic characteristics, such as age, gender and social class.

What’s in the report?

The report is full of fascinating information about who is using social networking sites, what they’re doing on them (especially Facebook), the size of their social networks and strength of their social ties. There’s a special focus in this report on whether use of social networking sites contributes to the ‘echo chamber’ effect (reducing people’s engagement with a diversity of opinions and experiences), affects the level of trust social networking site users feel towards other people, and political and civic engagement. These findings have been really well summarised on the Nieman Journalism Lab site.

Who are these people?

Amongst the people sampled for this report:

  • 79% of American adults said they used the internet
  • 47% of adults (59% of internet users) say they use at least one of social networking site

This is nearly twice the number found in the 2009 report, which found that 26% of adults (34% of internet users) used a social networking site in 2008. Internet users of all ages are more likely to be using a social networking site now than they were in 2008, with the most pronounced increase being in people over the age of 35.

As is common in use of social media, more women (56%) than men are users of social networking sites, and more women than men use Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. However, nearly twice as many men as women use LinkedIn.

And age-wise:

  • 32 – the age of the average adult MySpace user
  • 33 – the age of the average adult Twitter user
  • 38 – the age of the average adult Facebook user
  • 40 – the age of the average adult LinkedIn user

And what are they doing?

The report looks closely at Facebook activity amongst the people surveyed.

Status updates are an infrequent activity for most users; 56% of Facebook users update their status less than once a week. Only 15% of Facebook users are updating their status daily or more frequently. 16% have never updated their status.

Commenting on other people’s status updates is a more common activity: 53% of Facebook users comment on other users’ status once or twice a week, and 22% are commenting at least daily. Commenting on photos is also popular: 20% of Facebook users comment on someone else’s photos at least once a day. But overall, the most popular activity, according to the the Pew Internet report, is Liking.

A List Apart web survey 2010 results

A List Apart have released the findings of their 2010 survey of people working in the web design industry (and their graphs are super pretty).

I’ve been completing the survey for at least three years now, and I’m always so glad I do – because either women are very underrepresented in the industry, or they don’t get round to filling out this survey. Of the 16,593 respondents to the survey, less than 20% were women:


A List Apart survey results: Gender

Women make up a very large proportion of respondents working with content and in usability roles, according to their job titles: 46.3% of content strategists, 45.7% of writers/editors, and 32.5% of usability experts/leads/consultants.


A List Apart survey results: Job distribution by gender

Sadly, for the past three years, writer/editors have expressed under 90% confidence in the security of their roles.


A List Apart Survey results: Confidence by job title

Every year I find the satisfaction findings particularly fascinating. But the whole report makes interesting reading – make yourself a cup of tea and settle in.