How an airport managed to stay as a park in Berlin

View story at Medium.com

 

Last week I was in Berlin for my second time. I like Berlin very much; it’s arty, vegan & vegetarian-friendly, great for bicycling, cheap and has many parks. But one park, Tempelhofer Feld, is unique. Why? Because it’s a former airport!

 

When Tempelhof airport closed in 2008, the city of Berlin acquired this 386-hectare open space. The area was opened up in May 2010 to the public with great reception. Today, the area has a six-kilometer cycling, skating and jogging trail, a 2.5-hectare BBQ area, a 4-hectare dog-walking field, an enormous picnic area for all visitors and a community garden.

 

But the story could have happened differently. In 2012 the city had plans to build offices, 4.700 homes, and a large public library at Tempelhof. Even though the plans stated that there would be 230 hectares still left for a park, and new apartments would include affordable housing, Berliners did not trust the politicians after ongoing gentrification and rising housing prices for the past years. This heated debate resulted in a referendum where a majority vote ruled that the airfield will be kept free from property building until 2024 at least.

Some of Tempelhof airport hangers have been used as refugee shelters from2015, and the debate rose again when the city wanted an exemption from the law to build more temporary housing for fugitives. Many people thought this was a backdoor way in for developers and so it has been fought.

Even in late November, there were many people there biking, rollerblading, flying kites and walk their dogs. In the summertime, there are a lot of concerts and parties and always a lot going on. If you are in Berlin, don’t miss the chance of being in the middle of a city, in avast open space which used to be an airport.

How to succeed as an introvert

The second day of Agile Testing days was very much in tune with my talk about the Impostor Syndrome. I feel there is a mind shift going on in the corporate world, people realizing that employees are not resources but human beings which means that they are complex and full of emotions. This line from an Icelandic poem captures this well: “Carefulness shall be had in the presence of a soul.”

Elizabeth Zagroba had a personal and insightful talk about succeeding as an introvert. She offered suggestions on how introverts can feel more comfortable and succeed at their job, testers, as well as others. Elizabeth has been inspired by reading Quiet by Susan Cain and Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe. I related 98,345% to her talk 🙏.

Introverts excel when they can dive into things alone, express themselves better in writing, and are good listeners. However they don’t like small talk 😱 When a person casually asks an introvert how she is doing, she takes her time to think about what is going on in her life, and by the time she feels ready to talk, that other person probably has passed by without thinking more about it.

Elizabeth mentioned that introverts like to stay on task and she just wants to be left alone at work and get her job done than doing small talk. I relate to that very much; often I wonder how some people get any job done because they are small talking all day. But this can be unhealthy if you put too much pressure on yourself to be working every minute of your work hours. It’s necessary for everyone to take a break, so introverts should also remember to take breaks and it’s ok to do that alone.

Introverts are quiet but observant, so they like to take notes and process things before they speak. Introverts don’t like to talk more than is necessary, so when they feel people have made their point, they just want them to stop talking!

I’ve been struggling to know when I should step out of my comfort zone and improve my social skills, and when I should accept who I am and how I function best. A lot of teamwork today is better fitted for extroverts; brainstorming in a group is not the place introverts get their best idea, open space environment makes us uncomfortable, and meetings drain the life energy out of us very quickly. If you are an introvert, it’s crucial for you to sense when you are overstimulated and need to take your alone time to recharge. You might notice that you have a hard time prioritizing, you’re not finishing any task or not being creative at all. Elizabeth then made an excellent point that if an environment is making you feel uncomfortable, then it is not the right environment for you.

Elizabeth admitted often feeling awkward, but never guilty of not being social. She’s content with not wanting to spend socializing with her co-workers, 40 hours a week with those people are just enough and she instead just wants to be home in her pajamas. Like Elizabeth, it helped me to identify myself as an introvert and highly sensitive (which is a term Susan Cain explains in Quiet). It made me accept who I am and not feeling bad when I think I’m socially weird or too quiet in meetings.

As much as I love going to interesting conferences, I feel exhausted after each day, so it’s very important for me to get some alone time. Now I don’t feel bad when I leave the people at the bar at 10 o’clock (which still I get a social hangover from), it doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or stuck up, I’m just an introvert. 😊

 

To take, or not to take, your dream trip

Have you thought about “that” trip that would be so awesome but it sounds too fantastic for you even to start to plan it? So fantastic that it must be expensive or complicated to plan? But what if the only constraints are made up by you?

I’ve always wanted to see the world, but I haven’t been very good at executing that plan. I’m from Iceland, have family in Norway and friends in Denmark, so I’ve traveled a lot in Scandinavia. But’s that not an excuse for why I haven’t traveled as much as I would want to. For the past years, I’ve realized that what is constraining me is myself. My first big revelation was after I went alone to the Google I/O conference in San Francisco on behalf of my company. Then I unexpectedly experienced that there was a lot of freedom in traveling alone, and I quite liked it. Soon after, I realized that I was waiting for traveling places until I would do it with a boyfriend. But I didn’t want to live my life waiting for something that might never happen. So I went alone (and single) to the capital of love, Paris and enjoyed it very much! Since then I’ve been traveling a lot in Europe, both alone, with my friends or as a speaker. My next step in dropping my self-made-up constraints happened when I told some random person that I was a software developer. For the hundredth time, I got the reply “Oh that’s great. So you can work from wherever in the world?”. Uuuu, yeah, in theory, I could. So why not in practice as well? I decided to follow Nike’s advice and just to do it. I went to Lisbon for two weeks while working remotely. My team at work took it well, and it went more smoothly than I could have imagined.

A road trip in the USA has always been on my bucket list. But it’s been a far away dream, like going to Australia or travel around the world. Something that I’m sure I will do someday. Sometime later. The future-me will most definitely take care of it. Won’t it? But what if the future-me doesn’t? What is stopping me from doing it right now?

Me and my boyfriend were going to take our first trip abroad together this summer. We were thinking to go to Tenerife, like everyone in Iceland, or taking a road trip in Europe. I’ve still never been to Italy nor Greece! Somehow, a couple of weeks before our summer vacation, we started to talk about San Fransisco, a city both of us had visited a few years back, and both of us loved. Thanks to Wow-Air that recently started flying a direct-flight there, the prices weren’t that much higher than flying to Europe. We had also wanted to explore nature, not only be in cities. All of a sudden our travel plan for a road trip in the USA started to fold out. From San Fransisco, up to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, through Las Vegas, on to the Grand Circle, back through LA, ending again in San Fransisco. We started to look at pictures of these amazing places, and it seemed unreal that we were gonna go and see them! Our initial plan was for two weeks abroad, but we extended that to three weeks when we saw how many points of interests we wanted to see along the route.

In a couple of days, we booked the flight, and it was on. We didn’t want to constrain ourselves too much with pre-planning where we would stay. Sometimes we did it with a couple of days in advance, other times we took our chance and stayed at a random campsite or a motel with good reviews on Google.

We did not get disappointed. We saw so many magnificent sights. Some of it felt like a dream which we didn’t want to wake up from. Traveling also makes you see things from a different perspective. Both of us have been working on making our lives simpler and finding how the connection with nature gives us true happiness. This trip made all that so much clearer for us that this is how we want to live our lives. The trip also taught us also a lot about ourselves and our relationship. There is no escaping of showing yourself, the good and the bad, stuck in a car with someone for three weeks.

The feedback we’ve gotten after we got back made me realize that it’s not a given that people go out of their comfort zone and travel out of the box. People have been awe-inspired and amazed that we went on this trip. As enjoyable as that reaction is, it feels somewhat weird because it was pretty effortless to go on this travel. It was not expensive nor complicated to do. I have to admit though, that I had a little bit guilty conscience about leaving my son for so long and don’t give him a trip abroad this year. But my honest belief is that it will serve him better in the long run to have a happy mum who can inspire him to do the same.

We got hooked on hiking after this trip and are working on steps to be able to include more travel and outdoor activities in our life. It might be going abroad regularly and work remotely from places where we can hike in our free time. It might be living in a van or a tiny house. Whatever it will look like, we know that we can do whatever we want. Our biggest obstacle is always going to be in our mind.

How do you feel about taking your dream trip and see where it leads you?

Being an impostor at a testing conference in Portland.

Last week I was so lucky to get to give my talk about the Impostor Syndrome, Feeling like a fake, at the Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference in Portland, Oregon. PNSQC is for people in QA (QA engineers, testers, testing specialists, quality fighters, whichever term rocks your boat) so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that it was also very informative for software developers and anyone involved in software development so I was not as much of an impostor as I thought.

Now I went deeper into the reasons behind people suffering from it, which can stem from mixed signals when you’re growing up from parents regarding achievements and praise. Not getting praise for doing good, or always getting praise no matter what, skews our ability to assess our achievements realistically. Being in the minority can make us feel like an outsider from the get-go and so we quickly slip into feeling like Impostors. We can even start to feel like we need to represent our whole social group, which of course is very stressful. Organizational culture at our workplace plays a significant role, so we need to take steps to keep it healthy, so people feel safe to be themselves. One part of that is to have a working agreement, so there is a mutual understanding in your team, or your company, how you can work together in a healthy environment. The Recurse Center, an educational programming retreat in New York, have social rules which I feel are also very useful to make people feel comfortable.

  • No feigning surprise
  • No well-actually’s
  • No back-seat driving
  • No subtle -isms

My measurement on that my talk went well is getting people come up to me afterward who have related and share their story with me. Like a woman who questions if she can ever quit on her anti-depressants and still feel good about herself, a man who called his wife immediately after the talk to share with her what he heard and a remote worker who was so intrigued about getting his team share their feelings that he was going to get them to try it, even though usually he’s not much of a feelings-sharing-kinda guy.

Skepticism

When I read the description the talk of my fellow European, Zeger Van Hese,The Power of Doubt — Becoming a Software Skeptic about being afraid to say when you don’t know, I knew I had to see it. Zeger took us through his journey from being unsure of himself as a tester because he felt bad not having all the answers to being a confident tester that makes decisions based on evidence and rationality. I wasn’t sure at first where he was going with it when he started talking about his ventures in trying to explain the unexplainable, like ghost hunting. But his talk then proved to be highly entertaining as well as making you question your senses and your memory. Try this illusion where you see something completely different than reality, or try to unhear the hidden message in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven played backwards, when you’ve once read them.

These may be silly little experiments, but they make you wonder, how much of our perceived reality only exists in our perception? How can we KNOW anything when we’re prone to display confirmation bias, finding rhymed statements more accurate, and believing even more strongly when given evidence to our beliefs? What we can do, is to use scientific methods, starting with Occam’s razor, to think critically. Maybe not believe a developer who says something doesn’t need testing, maybe think twice when we feel like we already tested this and don’t believe the majority just because. As a software developer I have a strong logical side to me, but as a poet, I’m very emotional, and these two opposites of me sometimes clash. This talk was an inspiration for me to start to question everything, starting with myself, to understand me and others better and improve my communications.

Hard Conversations: Project Quality & Project Sponsorship

I met Payson Hall on a speakers dinner the night before the conference where he was a bit distracted since the PNSQC app didn’t show his talk, so he was worried that he wasn’t on the schedule. Fortunately, it was just a bug in the app which somehow had slipped QA (pun intended). His topic, communicating with the Project sponsor, seemed to be just in the line of where Kolibri is moving (that is, the cultural transformation only gets you so far if the project sponsor does not agree with it). I hadn’t heard this term before, Project sponsor, but I immediately knew what people meant and related to how important it is to have the Project sponsor happy and informed since, in the end, it’s his or her decision where the project is going. Even though a product owner and the team are autonomous and have much influence on what they work on, there can always be some business or market decision that the project sponsor only knows about and is equipped to make decisions.

So what is the best way to have that difficult conversation with the Project sponsor? Perhaps this is a project you have been cheering for as a product owner and is not going as well as expected? Maybe some premises have changed, or things didn’t work out as planned? Maybe this is a software development project and all that could go wrong did? Nobody expects us to be able to control how things go, but what we can control is how we react when we realize that things are going differently than planned. If you tell a project sponsor that everything is going down the drain, you can bet that she will ask why you didn’t say anything sooner. The best way to communicate difficult things are to have a cheeseburger talk, i.e. get her out of the office and talk over a cheeseburger or a salat. This makes you get her full focus, and it doesn’t look as dramatic as it might otherwise be. Remind the project sponsor about the feasibility and risk of the project, then the situation. Never say that something can’t be done because how are you going to prove that? Instead, say that you don’t see a way and you need to work out where to trade-off to accomplish the desired outcome.

The Future of the Testing role

One speaker didn’t make it, and last minute James Bach was brought in to talk about the Future of the Testing role. His talk was excellent, so I’m glad things panned out that way. It was almost like being at a standup, he was so confident and threw off jokes, mostly about himself. James is a guy that doesn’t care about what others think of him and likes conflict. Maybe that’s why he does so well as a testing specialist, because in this line of job you have to be good to stand on your opinion and be ready for conflict when saying something isn’t done. James doesn’t want to be called a QA person or a QA engineer because he doesn’t look at his job as assuring quality, but he’s testing things and making sure they work. He made a solid argument about that testing is very accessible, and anybody can be a tester, but to be able to test systematically, write reports and analyze results, you need to be a testing specialist.

Even though testing is very accessible, it requires specific skills and a certain mindset to stay in it (and enjoy it). Testing is unbounded; you never know when it ends, so you need to let go of uncertainty. The hardest thing about testing probably is that better developers make testers feels useless! It’s an emotional struggle, you don’t want there to be bugs, but when you find one you feel thrilled. It’s like firefighters, they don’t want houses to be on fire, but when it happens, they feel good about it because they can help.

To be a good tester, you have to:

  • Test deeply and reliably
  • Explain and defend testing (how and why)
  • Question and challenge assumptions

Katy Sherman talked earlier about the importance of breaking the silos between QA and developers, but James didn’t see it like a tester was in a silo. Instead, a tester lives in a villa and invites people in. Everybody can come and swim in the pool of quality and dine at the table of testing. But then the guests go, and the tester cleans up the mess and does the dirty dishes.

There is a current pattern of the testing role not being seen as a necessary role, but instead, everyone should watch out for the quality and everyone should be testing. Agile has given developers most of the power, and unit testing and automated tests are the hot things right now. James once had a conflict with a developer that proclaimed that testing was so easy, he had done so and so many automated tests and it was so easy. It wasn’t until long in that discussion that James realized that for that developer testing was easy because he was only testing a contained part of the whole thing and then yeah, testing can be easy. But to test the entire thing, all possibilities, then testing is hard. The downside with everyone being responsible for quality is that it can lead to nobody taking that responsibility. So the testing role is still relevant and is always very important. There are cases that a test manager is sufficient, whose job is making sure that everyone is testing.
Finally, some pro tips for testers; Save stories of terrible bugs to defend testing and create your private group where you can throw questions and thoughts about testing around and get a response from people you trust before you go and challenge your boss.

Build A Workplace People Love — Just Add Joy

The final keynote was by Rich Sheridan who wrote the book Joy Inc. about how he created a joyful culture at Menlo Innovations. His book inspired us at Kolibri, and my some of my co-workers met with Rich when he came to Iceland a while ago. Rich talked about how he had felt miserable in his programming job after climbing the corporate ladder. From working in chaos to bureaucracy to agile, which was a blend of those two. After the company he worked at became bankrupt after the dot-com bubble he tried being a kano instructor. It didn’t take long until he wanted to find the joy he had first felt when programming and was sure that he could create a joyful environment with simple structures and processes. Rich founded then Menlo Innovations who provide innovative consulting and software development. Everyone work in pairs who are rotated on a weekly basis. And since people switch places all the time, nobody has their machine, but they have many different kinds of computers and versions of OS which means that all code is constantly developed on various platforms. Headphones are forbidden and everyone works together in an open space. Personally, I’m not a fan of open spaces, but I can see how it can work for a pairing culture like that. Meetings are life-sucking, so they are kept to a minimum and instead discussions are made ad-hoc and quickly. They do have a daily meeting which takes around 13 minutes with 70 people. I call that efficient! They have an interesting approach to their weekly review meeting with their customer where the customer shows them the project instead of the standard vice versa. Just as at Kolibri, transparency is regarded essential and a part of that is open salary. As someone that has gone through burnout, I’m a big fan of their no-overtime policy.

I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s high on my to-read list now. Even though at first I felt some of Menlo’s work processes are a bit out there and is maybe not for everyone, after thinking about it, I can see people thriving in it.

All things must pass

Like at all great conferences, it’s not just the talks that are inspiring but also the people and I made some great connections. Portland is an amazing city with quality food, quality coffee, and quality people. Americans are generally so open and friendly, and even more so in Portland than in many other cities. Finally, a big kudos to the organizers of the conference, especially to Joseph Ruskiewicz who showed me around and made me feel like a local.

Teenage Suicide

My dad found an old folder of mine with poems and drawings from when I was young. The oldest poem is from when I was eleven! I didn’t remember how young I was when I started to write poetry. It was so inspiring to read them (some of them are actually pretty good) and reminded me once again, how passionate I am about writing (and maybe I should pursue my drawing passion as well?).

I was a very sensitive, introverted child. As I progressed into the teenage years, my emotions became stronger and heavier so that sometimes I was on the verge of suffocating. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16. Shortly after, before the medicine started to work, I made a suicide attempt and ended up in the hospital after eating all kinds of pills. This happened shortly after I started to smoke cannabis and immediately became hooked on. I believe the cannabis triggered my depression and ever since I’ve always become depressed after I smoke it a few times. The last time, four and a half years ago, I was so far down I was afraid for my own life. I’ve been sober since and worked a lot on myself and have now been medicine free for over 2 years and “broke up” with my dear psychiatrists a year ago.

Before I was diagnosed with depression I thought it was completely normal to contemplate on a regular basis on how you would commit suicide. To those who relate to this, I wanna tell you that it is not normal and you can get help to live a happy life. There is always a solution for getting better, even though it might take some time. You just have to push through, one day at a time.

Here’s one of the poems from that folder (probably thought as a song lyric as all of my English poems at the time) which describes how I felt pretty well. Fortunately, I never went further than making that attempt.

Teenage Suicide

Wakes up in the morning.
Wondering why.
Eats her breakfast.
Wondering when.
Walks to the bus stop.
She’s waiting.

Get’s through her workday.
Wondering how.
Rides the bus back home.
These faces all around.
She wants to be just like them,
shine like a star.

Only one little wish,
one little wish.
To be like them,
perfect.

Wakes up in the morning.
Wondering why.
Throws away her breakfast.
Reads a magazine.
These faces all around.
She wants so be just like them,
shine like a star.

Calls in sick at work.
Wondering what she should write.
Walks into the bathroom
from which she never returns.
Lies down in the bathtub.
She’s bleeding.

Only one little wish,
one little wish.
To be like them,
perfect.

It’s all she wants,
all she wants.
Just one little wish.
Just to be perfect like a star.
It’s all she wants,
all she wants.

Only one little wish,
one little wish.
To be like them,
perfect.
Perfect.


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To be, not to be seen – Inspiration from AgileEE

Last week I went to speak at the Agile Eastern Europe conference in Kiev, Ukraine. My talk was about the Impostor Syndrome with a focus on the importance of a humane work culture and how agile processes can support people with being themselves.

The first thing that struck me about Kiev is its enormous size. Officially there live 3,5 million people in the city, unofficially (whatever that means), 5 million. On the way to the hotel from the airport, I drove past what felt like endless large apartment complexes, each one housing more people than my entire neighbourhood in Iceland.

Ukrainians are very hospitable which was apparent in the atmosphere at the conference which was very friendly and inviting. The theme was To be, rather than to seem which fits my talk perfectly. I dutifully attended talks on the first day but started to feel I wasn’t getting much new out of them, although I agreed with what was being said. Agile (with a capital A) has started to focus more on management and to stick to predefined processes instead of focusing on agility. A culture where people have the freedom to control what they do and at the same time take responsibility for it, where people feel safe and are able to communicate with honesty is much more important than following some certified instructions. I’m not sure if this is a new realisation to people in Eastern Europe or just in the Agile community itself but this is something I have been thinking of for some years now. Anyways, I’m glad to hear that people are coming to this realisation. I’ve worked in strict Scrum where the team didn’t see any benefits of some processes, like estimating story points, and it was the cause of so much frustration and wasted a lot of time. When we finally realised that being agile meant iterate and improve the processes as well as the product, everything started to work so much better. And more importantly, everyone started to feel much better.

That being said, I heard some inspiring talks and was reminded of how strongly I feel about having a humane working culture and that you need to nurture it. When writing this article I also realised that I gained more from the conference than I realised at first. Then I had many inspiring conversations with amazing people from all over the world, which is priceless.

 
Invitational organisational growth

The conference started with a keynote from Michael Sahota where he talked about agile being for teams, not for organisations. The agile community is failing by trying to force changes on an organisational level instead of focusing on creating a good culture within a team. Teams should be in their culture bubble, don’t advertise it and people who find it interesting will come. Then remember to communicate with people outside the bubble in ways they are used to. “They want a Gantt chart, give them a Gantt chart”.

I agree that Agile shouldn’t be forced in an arrogant way to an entire organisation, but there are many problems as well with being in a cultural bubble within an organisation. There is always communications between departments, and it can cause a lot of problems when people are working in very different ways. At Kolibri, we often experience that culture clash when we are working in an agile team within a waterfall organisation. This makes you often feel that the rest of the organisation is working against you and you are forced to work in ways that go against your better senses. I would never make anyone a useless Gantt chart, I’d rather initiate a conversation about the reasons for it and the expected outcome. But it always needs to be a conversation, and that can be an exhausting task because it takes time. But how to present agile and your culture to others without being arrogant and work out a solution for both parties is something I’m very curious to know more about, so I was hoping to get more actions or broader insight from this talk than I did. During the talk, I was also trying to get over my slide fetish and ignore the comic sans that appeared every now and then between almost unreadable scribbled notes. The talk ended with encouragement to meditate and figuring out who you are, which I liked because that’s a big part of my life, but it wasn’t presented in a flow with what came before, so I’m not sure how people took that in.

Visualising culture

Next up Philipp Engstler showed an awesome visualisation of the culture from localsearch.ch where he worked as head of engineering. They decided to do this really cool nerdy picture that displays their values and principles. It’s crucial to clarify what elements the company culture consists of so everybody is on the same page on how they want to work together. But it’s worthless unless it’s done in a bottom-up way like Philipp and his team did. We at Kolibri have also made our culture values and working agreements very clear in words, though not in an as cool picturesque way. This is both introduced to new employees, clients we work with and people outside the company. We also take it up every now and then to spark a conversation about if they are still viable and make sure everybody shares the same understanding. One of my favourites from their manifesto is We care about our PRODUCTS not our EGO.

Values in words vs. in hearts or “How to f*ck up with building processes without culture”

When the latest Scrum guide was released with the emphasis on values, instead of having more detailed processes as some people were hoping for, people asked whether Scrum is a framework or religion. Artel Bykovets had a nice talk about this issue and how he asked himself that very question at first, but came to appreciate the values and see that they are actually more important than to have very specific processes. I agree with him and really like these values and think it’s good for all agile teams to talk about what they mean to them.

All work performed in Scrum needs a set of values as the foundation for the team’s processes and interactions. And by embracing these five values, the team makes them even more instrumental to its health and success.

Focus: Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.

Courage: Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.

Openness: As we work together, we express how we’re doing, what’s in our way, and our concerns so they can be addressed.

Commitment: Because we have great control over our own destiny, we are more committed to success.

Respect: As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.

Rethinking agile leadership

Andrea Provaglio’s talk about rethinking agile leadership was well carried off and in line with the culture change theme, talking decentralised decision making. There were many good points there from Seth Godin’s book Tribes which I read recently and has many good points though it’s not the best I’ve read by him. Seth puts it very nicely with saying Leadership is about creating the change you believe in. In a self-organising team, there shouldn’t be a specific leader, but leaders should emerge from different people when they are needed. It’s important to have a non-self mindset and not just know how to lead, but also to know how to follow.

In old fashioned management, people were referred to as resources but let’s not do that, people are human beings and must be treated like so, in words and in action. Andrea also had a great point about how good communication is important and how it’s impossible not to communicate since we do that with body language and our every act. Not talking is not the same as not communicating since that can also send a message. Then he talked about the Responsibility Process which shows how all people mentally process thoughts about avoiding or taking responsibility. This is really useful to have in mind when you are processing your feelings when something fails and helps you not to get stuck in the first five emotions before you can take responsibility.

Scaling is on aggregation — How to reach the “C” level

Despite the cryptic name of Dave Snowden’s talk, it was the one that wowed me the most. He started with criticising the whole certification fascination that is present in the Agile community. I agree with him wholeheartedly, though I do feel that in Iceland agile coaches can have too little training at all, but people have to start somewhere I guess. The ability to understand how people are feeling and help them communicate is more valuable for an agile coach than a certification of knowing Scrum.

Snowden mentioned how people flock to where the money is, as in agile certifications, even where there is no real value there. This can lead to the Cobra effect. At the time of British rule in colonial India, the government was worried of the multitude of venomous cobra snakes. Their solution was to offer rewards for dead cobras to get people to kill them off. This lead to people starting to breed cobras to get the money until the government realised this and stopped the reward program. The bred cobras were released and the end result was an even worse situation. The point is that by getting more certified agile coaches, agile might get worse by being stuck in processes.

Snowden then made some points which I’m still pondering over. I feel they are very true, but the question is how best to address them.

  • Retros are determined by the present so they might reflect accurately what actually happened.
  • In light of the Hawthorne effect, single stories of change that improved the situation don’t really tell us anything.

But what was Snowden’s talk really about? It was about the Cynefin framework he’s developing, which can be used to help managers and others reach decisions. The Cynefin framework shows organisational complexity in different domains, so you can better know how to handle things when you’ve specced out in which domain the problem is. As cool as it sounds, it is complex and I’m not sure how to use it in my daily work. What stuck with me from his description of it is a method they use to collect data from people. They go to 10% of the people and hear out their stories by asking, what story would you tell your friend about your workplace? From this, they mathically (magically with math) draw up landscape models that show you where problems lie. This will have more realistic data than from surveys for example. People tend to answer surveys like they feel they are supposed to. This sounds really cool, but again, I’m not sure how to make use of it.

There are other practical things as well I took away from this talk, like having in mind that creativity only happens when people feel safe and can think freely. Total transparency will hinder innovation. Then instead of teaching how things work out perfectly, teach how failure happens. That’s when people actually learn.

Take back the space

The conference ended with a well fitting keynote from Tobias Mayer where he encouraged the makers to take back the space from managers. It reminded us again to develop with agility instead of “Agile”, referring to Dave Thomas article, Agile is dead, long live agility where he states the basic steps:

  • Find out where you are
  • Take a small step towards your goal
  • Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
  • Repeat

Finally…

Other talks worth mentioning is Gil Zilberfeld’s talk about agile DevOps and Roland Flemm’s talk about remote team facilitation. I was so exhausted in the end of the first day that I missed Olaf Lewitz’s keynote about surprisability which I heard was very good. There was also a talk about Holacracy I would have wanted to go to since Kolibri uses that organisational structure, but it was unfortunately in Russian. Then there was a surprise talk about Teal organisations I‘m also very interested in (I’m currently reading Reinventing organisations), but I didn’t know about it until afterwards. The second day I decided to take people over processes to heart and connected with people instead of attending talks. I got great questions and feedback from my talk which were very useful and will help me make my talk even better. My next talk will be at NextBuild in the Netherlands 20th May.

I could write more about the culture in Kiev, Finland, Israel, South Africa, Netherlands, Russia and Spain from all the great conversations I had, but that must wait another time. Going to AgileEE was a great experience that pushed me back to really think about improving communications and how people work together, so they love to come to work and grow from it. It’s so easy to forget that on a day-to-day basis where there never seems to be enough time. Even though Kolibri is on the forefront with running the company with agility, there are things we can still improve on. It’s good to take a step back like this and get insights from others to be able to focus again on what really matters.

The 100 day project

Update: Sooooo, I managed to stay in the challenge for 12 days. Then life happened with all its excitements. I went to Kiev with my Impostor Syndrome talk and am currently writing a book on the subject so my focus is there for now. This was still a fun challenge and showed me I can create cool stuff whenever I set my mind to it.


I’m challenging myself to participate in #the100DayProject, creating something each day for 100 days! I chose to write short short stories or short proses and am gonna add them here as well as on my Facebook page. (English versions pending).

#12 Rauður tannbursti

Nýkeypti rauði tannburstinn þinn úr plasti
fer við hliðiná mínum græna og bláa
sem er með skiptanlegum haus
og bambushárum.

Við horfumst í augu í speglinum
og skiptumst þar á brosum
sem eru annars falin undir
tannkremsfroðunni.

Spegilmyndin starir einmanalega á mig
meðan ég þríf maskararákirnar
og nota seinustu orkuna til að
tannbursta mig og reyni að sofna.

Ég sé rautt og er að bilast
af reiði og vanmætti
svo ég tek tannburstann þinn
brýt hann í tvennt og kveiki í honum.

A Red Toothbrush

Your newly bought red plastic toothbrush
goes beside my green and blue one
that has an exchangeable head
and bamboo bristles.

Our eyes meet in the mirror
and exchange smiles
which are otherwise hidden
under the toothpaste foam.

The lonely reflection stares at me
while I clean the bleeding mascara
and use my last energy
to brush my teeth and go to sleep.

I see red and feel like bursting
from anger and powerlessness
so I take your toothbrush
break it and light it on fire.

# 11

Rewrote Still feeling like a fake? Living post-impostor syndrome.

#10

Wrote about the Impostor Syndrome for an article in Fréttablaðið, will add link when it’s published.

#9 Að stíga tilfinningaöldur

Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar og held jafnvægi. Alda einmanaleika, alda vonbrigða, alda sorgar, alda reiði. Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar, eina af annarri og sjórinn kyrrist á ný. Áður reyndi ég að sigla fram hjá en þá gleyptu þær mig og kaffærðu svo ég næstum drukknaði. Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar meðan sólin rís og tunglið vex, meðan vorið fer og sumarið líður hjá. Alda kærleiks, alda þakklætis, alda ástar, alda gleði. Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar og nýt saltbragðsins á vörunum.

#8 Geirþrúður bókasafnsfræðingur

Geirþrúður er rúmlega fertugur bókasafnsfræðingur. Henni er mjög mikið í mun að fólki líki vel við sig og það hefur til dæmis leitt til þess að hún hefur fengið ávítur í starfi fyrir að gefa fólki bókasafnskort án þess að rukka þau fyrir. Geirþrúður á bara mjög erfitt með að neita fólki ef það biður um eitthvað. Einn daginn kom Helgi Björns til hennar með bækur sem hann hafði ekki getað tekið sjálfur í sjálfsafgreiðsluvélinni því skírtenið hans var útrunnið. Geirþrúður fer í að endurnýja það svo Helgi geti nú lesið Arnaldinn sinn en þegar hún segir honum að þetta kosti 1800 krónur hallar Helgi sér að henni og segir í hálfum hljóðum “Ég er Helgi fokking Björns, ég þarf ekki að borga fyrir þetta” og starir á hana sjálfsöruggu augnaráði. Geirþrúður fer í kerfi og umlar bara nei nei og klárar að afgreiða hann. Eftir á líður henni ömurlega að hafa verið svona óákveðin og undirlát við þennan hrokagikk. Svo kom þetta auðvitað í ljós í uppgjörinu um kvöldið og yfirmaður hennar horfði á hana eins og hann trúði henni ekki þegar hún stamaði þessari afsökun út úr sér. Geirþrúður vildi oft óska sér að hún væri persóna í einhverri af þessum skáldsögum á safninu, einhver sem hefði alltaf svör á reiðum höndum, einhver sem væri örugg með sjálfa sig og til í að takast á við hvað sem lífið myndi henda í hana.

# 7 Opinberun

Eitt miðvikudagskvöldið er eins og eldingu lýsti niður í mig og ég geri mér grein fyrir því að ég hef eytt hverju einasta miðvikudagskvöldi í 6 ár í að horfa á Americas Next Top Model. Lífið hlýtur að eiga að að snúast um meira en það. Ég er hætt að horfa á raunveruleikaþætti.

#6 Fyrsti AA-fundurinn

  • Hæ, ég heiti Sólrún og er alkóhólisti.
  • Hæ Sólrún!
  • Ég er ný hérna, eða sko, ég er búin að vera edrú núna í 2 vikur og þetta er minn fyrsti AA fundur…
  • Velkomin!
  • Takk, uu, sko, ég veit ekki hvar ég á að byrja en mér hefur eiginlega bara aldrei dottið í hug að hætta að drekka, hélt aldrei að það væri vandamál hjá mér, en þúst, var bent af sálfræðingi að ég væri líklegast alkóhólisti, samt veit hún ekki einu sinni um allt. Kannski er það bara svona augljóst. Ég veit ekki… Mér var semsé farið að líða mjög illa og var búin að greina mig með þunglyndi og ætlaði bara að fá pillur og fara til sálfræðings og batna… En svo er þetta víst meira mál en það, úff… Hvað gerir fólk eiginlega um helgar sem drekkur ekki? En einmitt þessi spurning og það hvernig ég er búin að vera bregðast við tilhugsuninni að hætta að drekka er soldið að segja mér að þetta sé kannski vandamál. Ég er búin að vera rosa týnd síðan ég var krakki og mjög leitandi. Leitandi í hvað nákvæmlega veit ég ekki, en það er alveg nýtt fyrir mér að hugsa að áfengið sé kannski að hamla mér í að líða vel. Kannski er ekki eðlilegt að fyllast óeirð í matarboðum þar sem er boðið upp á vín því ég vil bara meira og fara að djamma. Ég vil nánast sleppa því frekar að drekka en að fá mér bara eitt glas. Kannski er ekki eðlilegt að grobba sig af því að hafa drukkið í 14 daga í röð. Kannski er ekki eðlilegt að eiga alltaf sterkt áfengi heima til að skella í sig glasi ef konu skyldi líða illa… Kannski… En já, ég hef ekki meira að segja í bili, ég er spennt fyrir að halda áfram að læra svona mikið um sjálfa mig en er samt líka mjög hrædd og stressuð… Takk.
  • Takk og gangi þér vel!

#5 Misskilningurinn við að fullorðnast

Góðan dag, góðan dag, glens og grín það er mitt fag, hopp og hí, trallalí upp á nefið nú ég sný!

Mér fannst ég loks vera orðin fullorðin þegar ég heyrði lítil börn segja frasann “Na-na-na-bú-bú” og ég vissi ekkert hvað það þýddi. Hvað var að gamla góða “Ligga-ligga-lái”? En ég vil ekki verða eins og sumt gamalt fólk sem fannst allt best eins og það var í gamla daga. Svo það er kannski bara betra að hafa fleiri orð og frasa. Það er eitt af merkjunum um að Ísland er að breytast frá því að vera fábreytt sveitalubbaþjóð yfir í að vera fjölmenningarlegt og víðsýnt samfélag. Það er til dæmis ótrúlega stutt síðan einu ávextirnir sem fólk hér á landi fékk voru epli og appelsínur um jólin. Pabbi er nýbúinn að læra hvað mangó og avókadó er. Amma mín myndi aldrei fara á almenningsklósett eftir að svartur maður hefur verið þar inni. Kynslóðabilin í dag eru orðin ansi djúp. Ekki að tala um tölvuvæðingu og allt sem fylgir nýrri tækni. Mér finnst samt gaman hvað mikið af sömu bröndurum, gátum og sögum virðast eiga eilíft líf. Tómatabrandarinn er alltaf fyrsti brandari sem börn læra, frasar eins og “Bara er ekkert svar” og “Ha-ni”.

Þegar ég var barn voru foreldrar mínir Guðir, fólkið sem réð og var ákveðið. En eftir að ég varð foreldri er ég sífellt að upplifa að vera alls ekki viss um að vera gera rétt í uppeldinu og hvort ég sé að skaða barnið eða hjálpa því til lengri tíma litið. Mér líður alls ekki eins og Guði. Smátt og smátt hefur runnið upp fyrir mér ljós að foreldrar mínir voru líklegast líka bara að spila af fingrum fram. Ekki nóg með það heldur er mér farið að finnast ég stundum þurfa að hafa vit fyrir foreldrum mínum, segja þeim að láta ekki bjóða sér hvað sem er á vinnumarkaðinum, að hreyfa sig og hætta að reykja, finnast ég vera tilfinningagreindari en þau. Það er allt saman töluvert sjokk. En áður en ég er að melti þetta allt saman stelst ég í nammiskápinn þegar strákurinn minn er sofnaður eftir að hafa neitað honum um nammi fyrr um kvöldið og fer að kenna mömmu að sækja um vinnur.

Góða nótt og sofðu rótt í alla nótt.

#4 Sund

Ég sting mér í vatnið og ég er komin aftur í móðurkviðinn. Vatnið umlykur mig, ég fyllist öryggi og finnst ég vera komin heim. Að læra bringusund er eins og að læra að hjóla, það gleymist aldrei. En skriðsundið er erfiðara. Hvernig eiga hendurnar að hreyfa sig? Hversu hratt eiga fæturnir að buslast? Öndunin gerir á endanum alltaf útaf við mig. Ef mér fipast aðeins í henni missi ég taktinn og verð að grípa aftur í bringusundið. Baksund er líka ótrúlega næs. Ég geri það alltaf í lokin til að slaka á. Þegar eyrun eru ofaní vatninu er eins og maður sé í sínum eigin heimi og ekkert geti truflað mann. Þar til ég klessi á línuna sem aðskilur sundbrautina (hvað sem það apparat kallast), eða á manneskjuna fyrir framan mig. Ég syndi ósjálfrátt alltaf á ská í baksundi. Í bringubaksundi syndi ég alltaf til hægri, en í skriðbaksundi syndi ég alltaf til vinstri. Bringubaksund getur varla heitið það samt þegar ég spái í því, í bringusundi er synt á bringunni, en öfugt bringusund er kannski bara kallað baksund.

Það er alltaf hægt að spotta strax útlendingana sem sitja fyrir framan vatnsnuddið án þess að nota það eða synda löturhægt á sundbrautunum. Það eru svo margar óskráðar reglur í sundi. Sumar brjóta nú samt sjálfumglaðir Íslendingar, eins og að ýta ekki oftar en tvisvar á takkann í vatnsnuddinu þegar það er mikið af fólki til að hleypa öðrum að. Svo eru aðrar skráðar reglur sem þarf að passa að útlendingarnir fylgi, eins og að fara í sturtu og sápa sig, og þurrka sér áður en þau ganga inn í búningsklefann. Sumar brjóta nú líka unglingar og fólk með snjallsímafíkn.

Ég er farin að vera eins og gamla fólkið, með mína sundrútínu sem má helst ekkert breyta út af. Bringu-, skrið-, bringu og bak. Lyfta sér upp á stökkpallinum, fara í vatnsnudd, slaka á í heita, setjast í kalda, fara í gufu og teygja á, fara svo upp úr. Eftir sundið er ég endurfædd, endurræst, tilbúin að takast á við lífið.

#3 Krumlur Hversdagsleika

Myrkar hugsanir eru í endalausum eltingaleik í hausnum á mér.
– Klukk! Þú ert hann! Nú átt þú að hugsast þar til hún getur ekki meir.
Ein er grá, önnur svört, ein hvít en sú litast strax af myrkrinu og dökknar. og dökknar. Leikurinn færist í aukana og hugsanirnar brjótast út og taka yfir raunveruleikann.

Hversdagsleiki er með krumlurnar á hálsinum mínum og er við það að kæfa mig. Ábyrgð stendur hjá okkur og hlær. Hlær að mér því ég er aumingi og mun aldrei getað tekið hana.

Rúm er besti vinur minn. Það tekur mér hlýjum örmum og vefur mér inn í sængurvængi sína. Það huggar mig og ver mig fyrir Áreiti. Rúm sér mig líka fyrir besta meðalinu. Í skiptum fyrir tár færir það mér Svefn og þá verður allt allt í lagi.

Ég er laus við að komast til gangs.
Ég er til í að ganga laus.
Ég geng tillitslaus.

#2 Hversdagur

Einar kom þreyttur heim eftir erfiðan vinnudag og rétt náði að taka af sér skóna áður en hann hlammaði sér í sófann.
– Ég er kominn heim elskan.
María, konan hans, svaraði óræðu svari til hans innan úr eldhúsinu. Einar hafði þurft að díla við einstaklega erfiða tappa í fyrirtækjaþjónustunni í bankanum í dag. Sumir gaurar halda að þeir geti allt og að heimurinn vilji gera allt fyrir þá líka. Það hafði tekið á að halda kúlinu og vera vingjarnlegur og reyna að gera vel við þá þrátt fyrir fáránlega tilætlunarsemi af þeirra hálfu ofan á hvað þeir voru miklar gufur. Einar var feginn að vera kominn heim og hlakkaði til að horfa á nýja Game of Thrones þáttinn á eftir með Maríu. Svínið þeirra, Síta, rumdi og labbaði til hans til að fá hann til að klóra sér bakvið eyrun, það var það besta sem hún vissi. Með kröfuharða starfið hans Einars og tímafreka starfið hennar Maríu sem safnstjóri þá höfðu þau ekki gefið sér tíma í að eignast börn þótt þau væru að nálgast fimmtugsaldurinn. Því höfðu þau ákveðið fyrir nokkrum árum að fá sér gæludýr og varð Síta fyrir valinu. Þau voru bæði miklu meiri svínafólk heldur en kinda. Fyndið hvað fólk skiptist upp í svona hópa. Eftir að hafa hvílt sig í dálitla stund stóð Einar upp og gekk á ilminn í eldhúsinu.
– Hvað ertu að elda svona gott í kvöld elskan?
– Þetta er grillaður köttur, franskar og maísstönglar, ég nennti nú ekki að gera eitthvað flóknara en það svona á mánudegi.
– Það hljómar bara mjög vel, komdu hérna og kysstu mig.
Einar greip um Maríu og þau kysstust ástúðlega. Hann hugsaði með sér hversu þakklátur hann var eftir 10 ára sambúð hvað þau voru enn ástfangin af hvort öðru og viðhöfðu góð samskipti. Helmingur vina hans var búinn að skilja og virtust annað hvort vera gengnir í barndóm eða hafa það frekar skítt. Skilnaður gekk greinilega í bylgjum, alveg eins og ólétta og brúðkaup. Eftir matinn kúrðu þau sátt upp í sófa með Sítu við hlið sér og horfðu á sjónvarpið og nutu þess að vera til.

#1 Konan í stigaganginum mínum

Það er kona í stigaganginum mínum sem sér dáið fólk. Hún er mjög næm og getur líka túlkað drauma. Ég er að sjálfsögðu búin að setja hana í kassann “Nett klikkuð en samt gaman að” með fólki eins gaurnum á Esso sem spyr mig alltaf hvort ég hafi séð geimverurnar í Norðurljósunum og systir hennar ömmu sem les í bolla og spáir fyrir öllu fólki að það sé annað hvort alveg að vinna í lottó eða missa vinnuna. Kaffidreggjamynstrin fyrir þessa atburði eru víst áþekk. En aftur að konunni í stigaganginum, ég er í sjálfskipaðri herferð að reyna að endurvekja nágrannavináttu eins og hún var þegar ég var barn, svo ég geri í því að heilsa fólki og spjalla um daginn og veginn og finnst sérstaklega gaman að henni. Hún er oftast nær mjög hress og hefur alltaf frá einhverju skemmtilegu að segja. Það er líka alveg rétt hjá henni að hún er næm, hún finnur alltaf á sér hvernig mér líður, nema ég sé það sem að hún er næm á líðan fólks meðan hún segir að dáinn afi minn sé að segja henni frá hvernig mér líður. En í gær varð ég mjög reið út í hana. Ég segi henni stundum í gamni frá draumunum mínum og sagði henni í gær frá draumi þar sem ég missti tennurnar eina af annarri og var allan drauminn að tína þær upp og reyna að festa þær aftur upp í mig, en þær hrundu bara alltaf úr aftur. Konan varð mjög alvarleg og sagði í ásakandi tón að nú þyrfti ég taka mig taki og hætta að sofa hjá þessum gifta manni því annars myndi sonur hans deyja. Afi minn segði líka það sama. Ég sem hef alltaf verið vingjarnleg við hana og hún dirfist að koma með svona rugl! Hvernig dirfist hún að láta mig fá enn meira samviskubit yfir að vera að sofa hjá honum! Á ég nú að valda dauða sonar hans í þokkabót? Ég verð að komast að því hvernig hún þekkir hann. Ekki hef ég sagt henni frá þessu svo hún hlýtur að hafa séð hann koma í heimsókn til mín, þótt hann kemur vanalega inn bakdyramegin. Nú er hún komin í kassann “Klikkuð og biturt kellingaskass”.