Category Archives: books

The Scrum Steps

After listening to an HBR podcast on “Agile Management” I was curious about the scrum method of team organization. I am considering checking out Sutherland’s book.

In the meantime, here are the steps to implement a scrum

  1. Who is the Product Owner
  2. Who is on the team
  3. Who is the scrum master
  4. What is the Product Backlog
  5. What is the Product Backlog Estimate
  6. What is the Sprint Plan
  7. How to Make the Work Visible
  8. What is your Daily Scrum
  9. How does work get done
  10. What is your Sprint Retrospective
  11. What is the next sprint cycle

The point is to get teams to do a block of work autonomously in their “sprints”. Once the sprint is over, you get client input. The benefits seem to be

  • creating a better log of what work needs to be done as the basis for delegation
  • getting the team to tell you what they can do in a set period as a team
  • getting client input earlier

In a trusting environment, I can see how this could be fun.

Catholic v. Buddhist?

One of the more interesting challenges in scaling groups goes to the degree of uniformity one requires in assessing what people do.

We may not like it, but enforcing uniformity is a significant factor in insuring quality. So mass produced guns are far safer than hand made guns. Why? The barrels are more precisely bored out and they tend not to explode, therefore, when the trigger is pulled.

But too much uniformity is monotonous. And for the people working in a heavily rule bound system, life can become hell.

Sutton and Rao dwell on this in their book “Scaling up Excellence”. There are choices to be made about where you fit on the scale – one size fits all Catholic, or go with the flow Buddhist.

Clearly some aspects of the work process need uniformity. But perhaps the best practice is to minimize them. Set them up as guarantees of minimum acceptable quality, allowing freedom to innovate around these minimums.

Sort of like “Guardrails” on the side of the road.

Nice concept.

Want to Change Your Life?

Most of us do want to change our lives, but not too much. We also want to hold onto what we consider to be “precious”. And what is so precious? Perhaps it is our identity – the sense that we are the authors of our own life histories. As authors, we want to decide ourselves what changes to make.

And that is the rub. Usually we have little or no idea of what changes those would be. We don’t know and we cannot listen to others, or lose our precious sense of identity. So we get stuck.

There is a way out, of course, Instead of trying to change ourselves, we might commit to changing things outside of ourselves. Make something better — just a little bit — and the world changes for the better. Whether you change or not is not really important. You are the author of change and that is a great life story in itself.

Having said all of that, you might want to access a few books that can help you focus better. Here is a list from Legal Nomads

Books on Brain Expansion

Looking to get smarter? Here is a selection of books by Jim Altoughcer that might help you.

Here is an excerpt

(5) “MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING” by Victor Frankl

I’m at a loss for words here. Just read it.

Don’t read it for the Holocaust. Or psychological theory.

Read it because when you’re about halfway through you will realize your life is no longer the same.

And next time you get a chance to whisper in the ear of someone about to kill himself, whisper words from this book.

Spence: Arguing with Kids

This is a troublesome topic for many parents, especially young parents. And Gerry Spence offers a unique perspective on how to do this in his book “How to Argue and Win Every Time”.

Gerry starts off with an assertion that many adults might find troubling. Parents are usually stupid when it comes to kids. They don’t know what kids  need. But kids — though powerless — are nearly always right when they talk. So parents have, but rarely use, the opportunity to learn from their kids.  Learn about what? About love, about creativity, about wonder. How about those things?

One of the reasons we don’t listen is a fear of spoiling a child.  So we attempt to control and punish. Doing that, and focusing on that, we fail to give respect, trust and freedom.  There is a “magic mirror” effect. We get back a version of what we give, but not what we expect. Give anger and you get it back. But give respect, and you get respect back. Give friendship and you get it back.

Gerry relates how parents can deeply scar children by using violence as punishment. Parents receive no training on how to be parents, and that is a problem. Worse still, institutions like the Church emphasize the need for children to see their inadequacies in the eyes of God. This can lead to a life time of self-doubt. And when we  take over the preaching style that the Church uses, we are taking over a dangerous power tool. A tool that can lead to teaching hypocrisy. For example the father who preaches about the evils of drink but is addicted to gambling.  Moral values, then are taught by example only.

From this vantage point, Gerry makes the case for why there is so much crime in society these days. The old fashioned glue that tied individuals to a tribe, indeed giving their identity as members of a tribe, is gone. It is replaced by soulless bureaucracy. Children — innocent children — are punished just because they are poor or brown or yellow. They are excluded. And even as the “super tribe” speaks of love and friendship, the words ring hollow. yes, this is an indictment of modern society and Gerry pulls no punches in making it.

How to argue with children who grow up in this setting? One does so using the language of love. Real love. “Love requires us to free our children and to trust them”. Instead, “we demand conformity which is to demand an end of creativity”.

So what do we want from arguing with our children? We want our children to be successful. Ok. But what is success in life? While this is often expressed in monetary terms, the truth is that success is to excel in the art of being persons – to live with joy, to grow and to become who they are – to fulfill themselves. To freely bloom. That is what we want to gain from arguing with our kids.

Exercising control and power over children has the opposite effect. Indeed, it creates a war between parent and child, which is deadly for both sides, over time. The only alternative is for the parent to take the side of the child – to argue for the child and forever end the war.

Gerry gets deeply into two subjects at this point – punishment and money. On punishment, he makes the point with a story about how children actually punish themselves. On money, children should not be taught that money and privilege are better than connecting with people.

Finally, parents should keep in mind that no matter how well they do their job, there will come a time when their child wants freedom. The child will take that freedom come what may. And that is the way it should be.  Parents win when this happens with joy and expectations of an adventure, rather than with anger.

Next – the final chapter – arguing in the workplace.

Spence: Arguing in the Love Relationship

We have gone through Gerry Spence’s powerful model for mastering the art of argument. But Gerry points out, and I agree, that there is no one size fits all argument. How we argue depends in part on the context in which we argue. Gerry offers several contexts to consider and the first is within the family.

It is odd that universities offer no courses on how to be, how to  love, or how to be in a successful relationship.  We hear that to love means to give oneself. Gerry thinks this is a recipe for disaster. If both sides give all that they are to the other, there is nothing left of either party. No self to be. One must love but withhold the self.

So what do we give? To be successful in a love relationship, one must obtain what one wants above all. That is, of course, to love and to be loved. But to be loved must must be ready to give up to the Other what they need. In other words, to master the art of losing on issues.

The opposite of losing is the urge to control, which we all have. Where does it come from? It is a natural reaction to our fears from childhood and the coercive nature of learning to repress one’s feelings. But in a love relationship, the urge to control urges must be checked at the door.  Indeed, many of the arguments over issues one experiences within a love relationship are in fact issues of who will control.  But asserting control makes the Other just a puppet. The winner here is not really winning at all.

What is winning? One wins by using issues to build more love. One does this by losing on the issue — and so love is perhaps a “lose – lose proposition” on issues and “win – win” on love itself.

The problem is that the need to make the winning argument arises in a flash. It is not something that we can ponder and deal with only when we are ready. For that reason, we must prepare ourselves for the moments that require special consideration. How? We do this by checking the underlying assumptions we are making about our relationship. Are we assuming that we trust the Other? That the Other is truthful, that there is no hidden agenda? If we are in doubt at all of our assumptions, we will not be ready when the moment of truth arrives and we express ourselves based on what we assume about the Other.  If our assumptions are positive, we will naturally want to empower rather than to control. And when we can empower the Other, we know that we are on the right track. We are on the track to link your freedom with the responsibility to let your love partner grow.

And what about managing anger? Gerry has a great line “a marriage without anger is a marriage between corpses.Anger is a response to pain. And one is expressing anger in an argument, it is the pain that is important. Stop the argument in order to avoid making the pain worse.

But anger is in fact a gift. One sees the anger because the Other acknowledges the closeness of the relationship. And the anger of the Other is our teacher. it teaches us to be compassionate. And it leads us to uncover what is hurt.

Finally, this implies that we need to edit how we communicate in a love relationship. Insults and jabs cause pain and that pain is long lasting. Knowing that, we need to be aware  of the down side of hurling out those most clever and biting words we never should speak.

So what do you do with your anger? When you feel it, stop and give yourself time to come to grips with why you feel the pain. To do this, you need to let go of the anger first.

Next up. Arguing with kids!

Spence: The Power Argument

We are now at the last section of Gerry Spence’s “how to” section of “How to Argue and Win Every time”. And this last section is about my favorite topic: power.

Gerry understands power in a way that few others do.  This is because he has felt powerless and gained power in himself. he felt the transition. He knows what he 9is talking about.

So where does power come from? Power is the produce of permission. When I feel someone is powerful, I am giving them the permission to be so. When I feel power in myself, I am giving myself that same permission. Gerry’s basic point is to never giver permission to others to take your power away. Insist on holding onto your power: be the center of your universe. That is the power stance.  Note that this is not “trying”. Losers try. Winners do.

This is not about becoming arrogant. Quite the opposite. One seeks and finds truth in oneself. That truth is humbling and powerful.

In some situations, argument is war (as in a court case). In these settings, one must win the war first by seeing what is really going on. And one wins by exerting control. Not over the opponent but over the war itself. That control is achieved by attacking. When does one attack. One defends when one’s strength is inadequate. One attacks when it is abundant.

Of course, you do not attack your loved ones and friends and employers. These situations require special treatment (which Gerry will give). We also do not attack the “man wearing the white hat”. We attack when it is revealed that he is the opposite. And even then, it is not an attack against the person but against the story. And the attack must be fair.

And when we are wearing the black hat? When we have wronged? The “bare facts” may appear damning. But we need to go beyond the bare facts to understand the larger story. And we should do the same with the bare facts that show another is wearing the black hat. This applies also when the Other has lied.

Gerry lays out ten elements for making the power argument

  1. Prepare until we have become the argument
  2. Open the Other to receive your argument
  3. Give the argument in the form of a story
  4. Tell the truth
  5. Tell the Other what you want
  6. Avoid sarcasm, scorn and ridicule
  7. Logic is power
  8. Action and winning are brothers
  9. Admit at the outset the weak points of your argument
  10. Understand your power

Gerry uses a very good example – an argument on behalf of a boy expelled from school and then a variation, on behalf of the teacher who over-reacted to the boy’s provocation. These are too long to reproduce or summarize here. But the point is clear — to make the power argument when his client is “wearing the black hat”, Gerry has to crawl into the hide of the Other and share the white hat.