Category Archives: support group

User Stories and Pair Programming: Two Chances to See Us Tomorrow

Chris will be leading off the Agile Manager’s Support Group in San Mateo with a presentation on the theme, “Help! Our user stories are too big!” As usual, there will be a raffle and free pizza, and as a special bonus, you’ll get to take home a copy of our Agile Dictionary sampler, a booklet containing highlights from the new website.

Meanwhile, Steve Bockman and Rob Myers will be presenting on the theme, “Making Pair Programming and TDD Fun and Effective” at the San Francisco .NET Developers User Group‘s monthly meetup, which will be held at Microsoft’s Market Street offices.

Which one are you going to? Life’s all about making tough choices, isn’t it?

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January Engineering Managers Support Group: The Economy

BBC Next Wednesday, Jan 21st, we will again be holding the Engineering Managers Support Group at the British Bankers' Club in Menlo Park. We had an excellent turnout when we held our last gathering there in November, and the proceedings had a rather festive vibe. Must have been the Guiness and the onion rings.

This month, we'll be starting the meeting with an interactive session dealing with the economic downturn, using a learning game called the Sudden Survey. So you'll come away with multiple benefits: commiseration and insight around the topic, and a new tool to use in eliciting wisdom from your teams.

You can RSVP at Meetup.com. We've reserved the loft in the rear, so come grab a pint and join us.

6:30 – 7:00
Networking and cash bar

7:00 – 8:00
Sudden Survey: The Economy

8:00 – 9:00

Round-table discussion… 

…of your engineering management issues. Bring your questions and get ideas and feedback from your fellow engineering managers.

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The Great Agile Spec Showdown!

Agile evangelists claim that extensive written requirements and specifications can be dispensed with in favor of lighter-weight ‘stories’. It sounds easier, certainly, but can it really be as good? Won’t all of the important details get lost? Join the Engineering Managers Support Group as we stage a participatory showdown between traditional and agile specs. May the best specs win! Of course, we will also feature our usual round-table discussion of your pressing engineering and leadership issues.

This month, our new host is ILOG, makers of market leading business rules management systems. They are providing us with meeting space and pizza!

We also are proud to announce that JetBrains, makers of IntelliJ, ReSharper, and TeamCity will be raffling off a copy of any one of these products.

6:30 – 7:00
Networking and food

7:00 – 8:00
The Great Spec Showdown

8:00 – 9:00
Round-table discussion of your engineering management issues
Bring your questions and get ideas and feedback from your fellow engineering managers.

Our Sponsors:
The Technical Management Institute
ILOG
JetBrains

Get all the details here.

Cheers,

Chris

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The Power of Self-Organizing Teams

Greetings,

A lot of attention has been focused on the power of self-organizing agile teams. This power is the foundation upon which Scrum, the most widely adopted agile methodology, is built. Is it hype or is there something there? This month, the Bay Area Engineering Managers Suport Group will experience how a group can self-organize into a team, and how such a team can evolve ever-better ways of working together. Come out and join the fun, now in Santa Clara.

6:30 – 7:00
Networking and food
Judy and Angie will be greeting people. If you need assistance finding us you can call them at 408.733.2374.

7:00 – 8:00
The Power of a Self-Organizing Team

8:00 – 9:00
Round-table discussion of your engineering management issues
Bring your questions and get ideas and feedback from your fellow engineering managers.

Our Sponsors:
The Technical Management Institute
Albin Engineering Services

Get all the details here.

Cheers,

Chris

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Great Meetings are on the Agenda – Wednesday

A great engineering manager knows how to run effective meetings. A written agenda is the road map that these meetings follow to success. When your meeting invite includes a well-crafted agenda, the participants are more likely to arrive on time and well prepared. Your meeting is set to move quickly to a successful outcome, and it might even end early!

Come out to the May Bay Area Engineering Managers Support Group and learn how to create agendas that lead to successful meetings. As always, the meeting will also include a facilitated discussion where participants can share challenges that they are facing as engineering leaders, and get feedback, ideas, and support from the group. The event is free, open to the public, and we’ll feed you good Thai food.

Where
Rearden Commerce World Headquarters
1051 E. Hillsdale Blvd. – 6th Floor
Foster City, CA

When
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

6:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Networking and Thai food
Katie will be in the lobby to ferry folks up. If she’s not there when you arrive, you can hail her at: 650.619.7562.

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Great meetings are on the agenda.

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Round-table discussion of your engineering management issues
Bring your questions and get ideas and feedback from your fellow engineering managers.

Our sponsors:
The Technical Management Institute
Rearden Commerce

Details and RSVP here

Cheers,

Chris

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Technical Management Events and Such

Greetings!

I’m back home, in the San Francisco Bay Area, after a couple of weeks on the road. I went to Chicago for the Scrum Gathering, where I presented Agile 101, and What Makes Agile Projects Succeed (or Fail)? I also facilitated a couple of open space sessions. Notes from one of those, Let’s Practice Agile Estimation, can be found here on the Agile Alliance Wiki.

After Chicago, I headed up north to Canada, where I ran a half-day workshop From Tester to Leader as part of the KWSQA’s Targeting Quality conference. I’ll be posting some notes from that session soon.

For the moment, I’m catching up and getting ready for a busy week. This Wednesday, the Bay Area Engineering Managers Support Group is meeting. In addition to the usual peer-support and problem-solving session, I’ll be doing a presentation on doing presentations. Perhaps next month I’ll do a presentation on doing presentations on doing presentations. OK, maybe not. This event is free, and includes some good food, thanks to our sponsors: The Technical Management Institute and Rearden Commerce. You can RSVP here.

Thursday, the IEEE Technical Management Council of Silicon Valley is putting on a dinner event featuring Elisabeth Pate-Cornell, Chair of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. Her topic for the evening is Risk Analysis as Decision Support. You can get more information and RSVP here.

Cheers,

Chris

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Active Listening Techniques

When people are talking to you, are you really listening? Or are you starting to think about what you are going to say next? Are you sure you understand their meaning when you hear their words? Language lends itself to misunderstanding as easily as understanding. This makes for great comedy, unless the joke is at the expense of you and your team.

Active listening is a set of techniques that empower you to optimize communication with members of your team. You accomplish this by creating a comfort zone, establishing trust, focusing your attention, and providing feedback that lets the person you’re talking to know they have been heard. It may sound simple, but the results can be profound.

101 – The Basics

Focus your attention
Focus your attention on the speaker. Don’t look at the pink elephant dancing behind them!
Make encouraging statements or sounds
“Hmmm.” “Umm Hmm.” “That’s interesting.” “I didn’t know that.” “That’s a surprise!” “I see.”

Take notes
This allows you to capture ideas that you may want to ask about or have clarified, without the need to interrupt. It also indicates to the listener that you are paying attention and value what they are saying.

Paraphrasing
Use paraphrasing to confirm that you really do understand what they just told you. Repeat back, in your own words, what you have just heard. Doing so will give you a chance to confirm to both the speaker and yourself that you do understand.
“So I think you are saying…”
“It sounds to me like…”
“I think I understand, but I want to make sure.”

Summarizing
After a long discussion, it can be useful to try to summarize what you think the speaker’s main points were. The summary is similar to paraphrasing, with the exception that you are trying to cover just the main points, not everything the speaker said.

201 – Questions

Prefer open-ended questions
Ask open-ended questions to get the speaker to elaborate. An open-ended question is one that invites an elaborate response, as compared with a closed-ended question, which can usually be answered with a word or two.
Open:
“What did you think of the workshop?”
“How are things going with the new team?”
Closed:
“Did you like the workshop?”
“Is the team getting along?”

Clarifying questions
“What do you mean by….”
“When you say… do you mean like…?”
“Like a ….?”
Be careful with these! Make sure that your question is really aimed at clarifying your understanding, and not challenging the speaker’s points or point of view. Avoid indicating your own preferences, judgments, or expectations in the form of questions. There is a big difference between:
“Interesting, how did you go about creating that?”
and
“Did you use the approved process to create that?”

Ask for more information
“That’s interesting; tell me more about that.”
“What else?”

Ask for their opinions and analysis
“Why do you think that is?”
“What do you think was going on?”

When you aren’t getting it, let the speaker know
“I’m not understanding.”
“Can you explain that part again?”
Temper this with some patience and good note taking. Often, something that isn’t clear now will clear up in a few sentences. Prefer not to interrupt, but don’t let the speaker go on too long if you really don’t understand what they are saying.

Listen all the way to the end
Attempt to listen all the way to the end. When you think they are done, it is often useful to ask:
“Is there anything else?”

301 – Nuance

Use silence
After the other person has finished their thought, wait a while and don’t say anything. This gives them an opening to tell you more. Silence can make people uncomfortable, so they tend to fill the void – the only way they can, by talking more. You want to give people, including yourself, time to think.

Body language
Use body language to indicate that you are listening. The occasional head nod or smile can let your speaker know that you are engaged. People tend to trust body language over the actual words we say.

Acknowledge, and ask about emotions
“It seems like this has you pretty upset.”
“Are you frustrated by that?”

Validate concerns
If the speaker doesn’t feel that you understand their concerns, and treat them as valid concerns, they are not going to be receptive to your attempts to put them at ease.
“I can see why you would be worried about that.”
“That’s a real concern.”

Verify assumptions
We make a lot of assumptions in order to facilitate talking about complex things without getting bogged down in the details. Sometimes this leads to misunderstanding. Be on the lookout for these situations. A question or comment to verify this type of assumption will clear up any particular misunderstanding as well as reassure the speaker that you are familiar with the domain.

We often make other types of assumptions as well, like knowing which ‘Sue’ the speaker is referring to. Verify these assumptions as well.

401 – Advanced Topics

Be Zen!
Be Zen! Be fully present in the moment. Notice everything about the speaker, their words, their tone, and their body language. Do not let your own emotions, or emotional attachment to the conversation, the topic, or the person, take your focus away from the present moment. If you notice yourself reacting emotionally, acknowledge it internally “I’m getting upset” but don’t dwell on it.

Create a safe space
Create a safe ‘space’ for the speaker to express themselves. They need to trust you and the situation, if they are going to really open up and share. When it is your turn to talk, be honest, and respectful. You need not agree with what the speaker is saying, but it is important to honor and respect their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

Cheers,

Chris

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Engineering Managers Support Group Tonight!

The Engineering Managers Support Group is meeting tonight!
Our topic: Active Listening.

Of course, we will also have our round-table discussion session, where you can get input from your peers on the challenges you are facing managing engineers. There will be yummy Thai food, and the usual assortment of beverages. All this, and it’s still free!

Sponsored by:
The Technical Management Institute (now Agile Learning Labs)
and
Rearden Commerce

Full details, and RSVP here

Cheers,

Chris

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Engineering Managers Support Group – Active Listening

A manager who listens well…
– will be told more
– will be confided in
– will understand their people better
– will resolve conflicts easier
– will be listened to

When your people are talking to you, are you really listening, or are you starting to think about what you are going to say next? Even if you hear their words, are you sure that you understand their meaning? Language lends itself to misunderstanding as easily as understanding. This makes for great comedy, unless the joke is at the expense of you and your team.

This month the Bay Area Engineering Managers Support Group takes a good look at listening. Effective techniques will be presented and modeled. Then the real fun begins. Each participant will get to practice active listening skills by role-playing scenarios taken from the real world.

We will be starting at 6:30 PM, and will once again enjoy the hospitality of Rearden Commerce, as they provide us with great facilities and tasty food.

Engineering Managers Support Group – March Meetup
Wednesday, March 26th
Rearden Commerce World Headquarters
1051 E. Hillsdale Blvd
Foster City, CA 94404

6:30 – 7:00
Networking and food
Katie will be in the lobby to ferry folks up. If she’s not there when you arrive, you can hail her at: 650.387.4551

7:00 – 8:00
We take a good look at listening.

8:00 – 9:00
Round-table discussion of your engineering management issues
Bring your questions and get ideas and feedback from your fellow engineering managers.

Sponsored By:
The Technical Management Institute
and
Rearden Commerce

RSVP Now!

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