Stuck In A Rut, Change Your Scenery

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Live Agile!
Live Agile!

Do you ever feel that you are stuck in the same old routine? That every day seems like a carbon copy of the one before it? Do you feel that you have stopped growing? Sometimes it takes someone pointing it out to you or some serious introspection to notice, but it does happen from time-to-time.

I recently noticed something about myself. I seem to have two modes; stay-at-home-mode and travel-mode. Whenever I stay in one mode for too long I tend to get stuck in a rut. However, it’s the frequent switching between the modes that allows me to grow at my fastest potential.

Think about yourself for a minute… Do you tend to stay in one place most of the time or are you are a road warrior. There is no right or wrong answer; but we typically tend towards one or the other. Perhaps switching between the two modes at some points in our lives.

Now that we know which one we are, stay-at-home or road warrior let’s examine some pros and cons about each mode:

Stuck In A Rut
Stuck In A Rut

Pros of stay-at-home mode:

  • Routine can be positive and lead to higher productivity
  • More time to be social and spend time with those that we care about

Cons of stay-at-home mode:

  • We can become rigid (stuck in a rut), follow a similar pattern of behavior every day
  • Decreased stimulus, so we can get bored easily

Pros of travel mode:

  • Become more flexible, little inconveniences don’t bother us as much, because so much of the travel experience is outside of our control
  • Tons of new stimulus everywhere, experience hyper-growth almost daily

Cons of travel mode:

  • Easy to get homesick and emotionally drained
  • Harder to maintain social connections

I am not suggesting that you stay in either mode forever, but spending some time in each mode is crucial for your health, happiness, and growth. If you have been in either mode for too long then consider finding and appropriate time and switching to the other. Even if it’s just a weekend trip that is within driving distance of your home, it can make a big difference in your life. Or perhaps you have been on the road for so long, it is time to take a staycation for a week. Remember it’s the switching it up that’s valuable to helping you gain more flexibility and personal Agility!

Anyone about to go somewhere cool? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

A 12 Year Old Agilest, What We Can Learn From Kids About Adopting Agile

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12 Year Old Agilist
12 Year Old Agilist

Ever noticed how children take to Agile faster than adults? At least that is what I discovered a couple of years ago when I trained a twelve year old in a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) class (Want to know why a twelve year old was in my CSM class? Checkout the paragraph with the (*) below). The twelve year old jumped right in and played an active role on his team; he helped write user stories, he completed tasks, he updated his team’s Scrum board, he even answered questions about Scrum. For him it all seemed quite natural and he did a great job.

So what is it about the mindset of a child that helps them adopt Agile so readily? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Kids naturally want to work in teams
  2. Kids will do whatever they can to help their team. Adults often define themselves by their job title and won’t work outside of their job description
  3. Kids learn at an amazing rate and quickly pickup how to do things from their team members
  4. Kids are curious and want to do new things often
  5. Kids feel that they can accomplish anything
  6. Kids are creative and tend to think of problems in unique ways
  7. Even if a kid is stumped at how to accomplish a task they will keep trying different ideas until they come up with a solution
  8. Kids get great satisfaction from completing a task regardless of what it is
  9. Kids like to work and they readily want something new to do
  10. For kids work can be fun
Live Agile!
Live Agile!

Study this list, what can you learn from it? Evidently if we want to be more Agile, then we need to be more childlike. Give yourself permission for a moment to not be so serious, find an activity that will allow you to play, and embrace it with an open mind. The more that you can be like a child, the easier it will be to embrace the values and principles of Agile.

How do you like to play? Tell us what you like to do to be more childlike in the comments section below.

(*) So why was I training a 12 year old in Scrum. Well, I was on-site one morning at a private client’s location for a CSM class. A mother walked in with her son in tow. She said that he had been suspended from school for carrying a pocketknife. No, it’s not what you are thinking… he had been on a Boy Scout camping trip the weekend before and left the knife in his pocket. Like most guys would do, he put on the same pants that he wore over the weekend, the ones with the knife in the pocket. The school had no choice but to suspend him. Since he was stuck with us anyway I invited him to take the CSM class rather than just hanging out in the back of the room. Funny, he did better than half of the corporate professionals on a quiz on day two. It was a really cool experience for all of us!

It’s Monday, Are You Motivated?

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How do you feel when you are not motivated? Are you productive? Do you do your best work? Are you happy? What purpose does motivation serve in living an Agile life? I am a firm believer that motivation is one of the key ingredients in achieving Personal Agility. For when we are motivated we are much better not only to ourselves but to others around us.

I got a reminder about motivation the other day on a business trip. Anyone who knows me quickly learns that exercise is very dear to me, without my health I feel that I don’t have anything else to give to others. On every business trip I go on I make it a point to visit the local Crossfit gym. Well, not too long ago I was visiting a gym in Miami, FL. After what seemed like an especially hard work out I was walking out the door licking my wounds. On the way out a sign on the door caught my attention:

Motivated People Only!
Motivated People Only!


Personal Agility - Level 1 Practice
Personal Agility – Level 1 Practice

The thing about this sign is it really hit home. See I was being coached by a personal trainer at the time and we were working on pulling strength. My personal trainer, Doug, wanted me to do extra pull ups every day. After the particularly hard work out that day I was walking out the door having not done my pull ups. When I read that sign it was profound, it was like it was taunting me. I wasn’t a quitter, I had just lost my motivation after some hard exercise. This sign reminded me of my commitment to Doug and I turned right around, got up on the pull up bar, and completed those extra reps.

Most of the time it’s pretty easy to be motivated, but every once in a while we get beat down and tired. We may even give up at times when it gets tough. It’s good to have visual reminders to ourselves of the commitment we made to achieve our personal vision. Signs like the one above are powerful information radiators that remind us to stay motivated even when times get tough.

Next time you feel like you have lost your motivation checkout this YouTube video, it fires me up every time:

Got a great motivational saying, poster, or video? Please share yours in the comments below.

Find More Time To Do The Things That You Love By Forming Your Own Team

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Personal Agility - Level 1 Practice
Personal Agility – Level 1 Practice

In his book entitled “How The Best Get Better”, management consultant Dan Sullivan describes a pattern of behavior that he has coined the “Rugged Individualist”. A “Rugged Individualist” is someone who feels that they can do everything by themselves and that they don’t need anyone else to help them. The problem with trying to do everything yourself is that you will eventually hit a ceiling where you cannot do any more. You get held back because you only have so much capacity, put an Agile way, your velocity (A measure of how much progress you are making) is limited.

In order to increase our own personal velocity (I.E. Get more done in the same amount of time) we need to embrace what Dan calls “Unique Ability® Teamwork”. Basically we need to determine what our strengths and our weaknesses are. Rather than trying to improve our weaknesses, we should focus on our strengths by surrounding ourselves with people who can do what we can’t.

The Power Of The Team
The Power Of The Team

For example, I am getting ready to finish a room in my basement. I am pretty confident that I could eventually learn how to do the electrical work, but by the time I figured it out it would have been cheaper to just hire an electrician. By forming my own “team” in other areas of my life, I have been able to find the time to focus on my strengths, rather than being bogged down doing things like; mowing my yard, getting supplies ready for my classes, etc.

Many of you might be thinking, “But, Brian it takes money to form your own team.” Sometimes we just need to get creative… Do you have kids? While they might not appreciate it now, they will learn the value of hard work by completing chores. Another option might be to barter services with your neighbors; assuming that you don’t like to clean and your neighbor doesn’t like to shop… you go to the grocery store to shop for both households and your neighbor cleans your home while you are out.

Another option for forming your own team for little money is to sign-up for a service such as Sites like this one will allow you to request tasks to be done, such as find a reputable electrician, for as little as $5 a task. As we have realized the value of having our own team, sites similar to this are popping up all over the internet (~50 Sites To Get Things Done For About $5 –

Want to form your own team in order to increase your personal velocity? Make a list of all the things that you are not good at, don’t have time to do, or just plain don’t enjoy doing. Look for ways to add members of your team to take care of these tasks for you and you will be well on your way to freeing up your time to spend doing the things that you love.

Tell us about what you have others doing for you in the comments section below.

The Need For Frequent Personal Retrospectives

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Personal Retrospective Questions
Personal Retrospective Questions

In Scrum (An Agile method) we hold a retrospective at the end of every Sprint (A working period, typically 2 to 4 weeks long). During a retrospective we ask questions like; “What worked well this Sprint?”, “What do we need to do differently next Sprint?” The point of these questions is give the team some encouragement and to look for opportunities for improvement. Do you ever find that you need a pat on the back and some ideas to improve your life? If so, then why not conduct frequent retrospectives on yourself?

In order to conduct a personal retrospective follow these 5 easy steps:

Step One:

  • Choose a set of questions to ask yourself. Sample questions include:

Step Two:

  • Have yourself and whomever is joining you (If anyone) answer the questions. I like to put one answer per Post-It note in order to make the next steps easier

Step Three:

  • Group similar ideas and look for any patterns that emerge. Again, having the Post-It notes on the wall makes this process easier

Step Four:

  • Prioritize the ideas that you came up with. Of all the ideas that were uncovered, what is the one most important thing that you can do right now in order to improve your life the most?

Step Five:

  • Taking the highest priority item; create a plan with assigned tasks and due dates in order to make it happen. For instance, let’s say that you discover that you are wasting too much time watching television and that you would rather be reading (Non-fiction of course) instead. Your tasks might be; when I get home from work each day, instead of watching TV, I will sit down for 30 minutes and read. I will ask my spouse to hold me accountable and tell me if they catch me watching TV instead of reading.
Personal Agility - Level 1 Practice
Personal Agility – Level 1 Practice

That’s it, 5 simple steps to conducting your own personal retrospective. Here are some tips in order to help you be more successful:

  • I always try to invite at least one other person to my personal retrospectives. Sometimes we have a “rose-colored” view of ourselves and we need someone else to be honest with us
  • Sometimes having a neutral facilitator can be beneficial. I discovered my purpose in life during a personal retrospective conducted by an executive coach that I hired
  • Choose a venue that will make you comfortable. I have held a personal retrospective in a classroom, a friend’s basement, and even on the ski slopes
  • Changing the questions that you ask each time can lead to new insights
  • Be willing to be vulnerable and honest with yourself. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it is the best medicine
  • During your retrospective you may uncover several good ideas to implement in your life. Resist the urge to try them all, stick to the most important one and make that change first. You can always come back to the other ideas later
  • Once you decide on which idea to implement, find an accountability partner to hold your feet to the fire to make it happen. We are asking ourselves to change our behavior and when we have to answer to someone else it becomes easier

Set aside some time for frequent personal retrospectives and you will not only encourage yourself, but you will also uncover ways to improve your life.

We would like to hear what questions you ask yourself during your personal retrospectives. Please share your questions in the comments section below.

Personal Kanban Case Study – 3 Year Old Sienna

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Personal Agility - Level 1 Practice
Personal Agility – Level 1 Practice

Talk about taking your work home with you. Braintrust coach John tells the story of how he implemented a Personal Kanban with his 3 year old daughter Sienna. Check this one out, it’s pretty amazing!

The Problem

My 3 year old Sienna would not stay on task to go to bed in time. She would get very distracted (I think this is a genetic trait inherited from me) which caused her to stay up past her bedtime and make Mommy and Daddy exhausted.

The Solution

We know kids are visual, tactile, and crave empowerment. Well, then, Personal Kanban to the rescue!

Sienna's Personal Kanaban
Sienna’s Personal Kanaban

Sienna’s Personal Kanban

On a Sunday night, I quickly made a Personal Kanban with 3 lanes, a Yellow Light, Green Light, and Red Light. Yellow = To Do, Green = Work In Progress, Red = Done.

I went to the computer and downloaded pictures that would represent her bedtime tasks. We started with storytime, brushing teeth, pajamas, and goodnight. It grew in later iterations to include her Flintstone vitamins, milk, and potty. I posted the board (easel sticky paper) on her wall, at her height, so she could move each picture.

Using Sienna’s Personal Kanban

Pre-Bedtime Planning: We scan over all the items in the Yellow column that we need to do for bedtime. I ask her if she can do it all, which has always been a big “Yes!”.

Preparing For Bed: Sienna gets to choose which item moves to Green (Work In Progress). I will have to talk to her about some items she chooses if there is a dependency. Such as why brushing her teeth might not be a good idea if she has not finished drinking her milk. She loves moving the pictures and does not let me touch them. If I encroach on her territory, she races to the board, rightfully exclaiming, “No, Daddy, I want to move it”.

Feeling A Sense Of Accomplishment: Once all the items are in Red (Done), I ask her what she has accomplished. She’ll reply, while pointing to each picture with pride, “I put on my pajamas, I drank my milk, I read a story… I did a lot!”.

Reinforcing Good Behavior: I congratulate her for a job well done. I may also suggest something we can try different or improve for tomorrow (always inspect and adapt).

Seeing Results

I believe Sienna enjoys the process because she gets to pull which activities she does, making her more empowered. She is noticeably more on task and more self-directed. She will often start pulling a task from Yellow before I even prompt her. The great benefit is that I do not have to nag her to get these tasks done, she is eager to do it so she can move it to Done herself. If she does start getting distracted, I ask her what is in Green still or what can move to Green. I am sure this helps Daddy stay on task also.

What’s Next and Insights

My wife would love for me to change how it looks, since it is just a quick and dirty prototype to see if it would work. She has been patient with me since it has been effective. My next honey-do project is making the board look nice. My daughter wants to color some of the pictures, which will make it more “hers”.

Sienna’s Personal Kanban demonstrates how Agile is a very natural way to work. My daughter did not attend a project management class or a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certification to do it. We are highly visual and tactile and work best in an environment that enables self-empowerment. Agile is so easy, even a 3 year old can do it!

Try this with your young kids and students, I would love to hear your results. Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Gone Digital

My work as a Braintrust coach and trainer requires me a to travel often. We began to use Trello so that I can still stay connected with her when I travel. Sienna will use her iPad or we project it to our Apple TV. She much prefers the physical board, so, we will see if digital is here to stay or to go.

Sienna's Virtual Personal Kanban
Sienna’s Virtual Personal Kanban

Have a Personal Kanban story that you would like to share. Tell us about it in the comments section.

Braintrust President To Keynote 2014 PMI Nashville Symposium

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Live Agile!
Live Agile!

This Thursday (April 10, 2014) Braintrust President, Brian M. Rabon, CST PMP will offer up a brand new keynote address entitled “Living An Agile Life! – How To Use The Values And Principles Of Agile To live A Passionate, Purpose-Filled Life” at the 2014 PMI Nashville Symposium. This energetic, edge-of-your-seat keynote is scheduled to begin at 4:15 pm CDT. In order to register for this excellent 2-day event at the brand new Nashville, TN – Music City Center go to –

KEYNOTE ABSTRACT: Do you find it can be a struggle waking up every day with energy and passion for what is to come? Do you find balancing your work, personal, and family “to-do list” to be a challenge? Do you yearn for work projects that consistently succeed and leave everyone feeling great? Agile is founded upon a set of 4 values and 12 principles. These values and principles, when applied to how we live our lives, can help us accomplish amazing things. We can; find our passion, take control of our to-do list, and succeed with products/projects at work. This keynote address will explain how you can employ some simple techniques in order to live your own Agile life.

BIO: Brian M. Rabon, CST, PMP is the President of The Braintrust Consulting Group, a worldwide leader in Agile transformations. Throughout his 17 years of IT industry experience, Brian has applied Agile methods in order to successfully deliver working product to his customers. Brian holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Auburn University and a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. When not in the classroom, Brian can be found around the globe evangelizing the benefits of Agile to the likes of Agile 20XX, the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) many chapters, and the Scrum Alliance’s Scrum Gatherings. Brian is the author of Scrum For The Rest Of Us and an avid blogger, writing for his company’s blog at