Ryan's Blog

Building a Habit

26 May 2020

I’ll admit it, right now with COVID-19 still going strong, most of my routines and habits are in shambles. Before this time, I felt like a powerhouse of productivity. Now, though, it seems even the smallest things I was doing daily have slipped. So now it’s time for me to explain how I typically rebuild habits.

Crystal Clear

24 May 2020

I have been giving a lot of thought on making the most of the distance I currently have from my clients and teams. One idea that always keeps coming back is around visibility and transparency.

Habit: Checking-In

10 May 2020

The adjustment to everyone working remotely continues, and companies everywhere are experiencing a lot of hard decisions as their main lines of business are interrupted. My clients and others I know are reporting layoffs, furloughs, and other work interruptions. Ever wonder how companies decide who to lay off?

Maximize Your Time With Pomodoro

02 May 2020

This week I wanted to write about a technique that I use pretty regularly. The Pomodoro Technique. While I suspect many of you are familiar with it, I want to go over the basics so that if you want to find a way to make the most of the time you have, you can get started.

On the Front Lines

30 Apr 2020

When many companies want to bring about change they primarily train and inform people as to the new behaviors and expectations. What is often unattended is where the lines are where the change is the most disruptive and what needs to happen right on that line.

Acing Remote Interviews

14 Apr 2020

There are lots of strategies you can employ when preparing for a job interview. There are a few more opportunities to pay attention to when you are interviewing remotely. So how can you set yourself up for even more success when you interview from afar?

Some Work From Home Tips

10 Apr 2020

Well, one interesting thing that the COVID-19 virus is causing is that a lot of companies are encouraging people to work from home en masse. While many of us have worked remotely, the sudden surge of it as a focal point has led to a lot of advice circulating about how to do it well.

Getting Started With Pomodoro

02 Apr 2020

Several years ago, I experimented with a way to improve my productivity. I always felt like I wasn’t getting enough done and that I couldn’t concentrate. What I found was The Pomodoro Technique, and it has helped me with my concentration and productivity ever since.

Top Reasons to Try Pair-Programming

23 Mar 2020

I started pair-programming years ago, and it has become a huge part of how I code and work with others ever since. Yet, when I go to clients, the very thought of pair-programming or pairing up is met with lots of different objections. They range from things taking longer, or that it is a waste of a senior person’s time, to paying twice as much for half the work. Those are the objections, but what are my main reasons for advocating for it?

Missing Skill: Facilitation

21 Mar 2020

It seems like there is always another meeting coming up for most of us. And if your experience is like mine and many others, that thought doesn’t bring a lot of joy. The fact is, most meetings are a boring chore that struggles to accomplish much.

The Importance of Breaks

20 Mar 2020

So a lot of us are at home and adjusting while there is also much uncertainty in what the future holds. There’s a small idea that I want to offer as we get through these changes right now and in your career.

How Long Should We Meet?

16 Mar 2020

There is always one meeting that your group has that never seems to go well. For a lot of groups their planning meetings fit this description. After so many poor planning meetings, the group decides they are taking too long, they try to shorten it instead.

Habit: Asking For Help

07 Mar 2020

When I first became a Senior Engineer and was told that I was now expected to mentor my juniors I had no idea what to do. Soon my own panic was replaced by a greater one. None of my juniors were asking for anything and I had no idea what was happening.

How I Conquered My Inbox

06 Mar 2020

If you’re like me, you have multiple email accounts, each of which is filling up with more and more emails. If you’re also like me, it feels like I can never quite keep on top of them.

Hacking My Productivity

04 Mar 2020

I have a three-month-old and a four-year-old, and that means I don’t have a lot of time to myself after I come home from work. Most days I only get about two hours to myself, so I have a real need to stay focused and organized, or I’ll never make progress on my personal and business goals. I’ve tried lots of things over the years, but this is what I’m attempting now.

Habit: Update your Resume

21 Feb 2020

Getting ready to change jobs takes a lot of effort and courage. After you’ve made up your mind, then comes all details of getting ready: Searching for jobs, asking friends, updating resumes, LinkedIn, and so on. But, there is a habit that if you start now and keep up with it will pay off in multiple ways.

I’ll Never Be Good Enough

16 Feb 2020

Let’s talk about imposter syndrome for a minute. Almost every developer I’ve ever met has it at different moments in their career. That includes people that have been at this for years. If you feel like a fraud, you’re in good company.

The Interviewing Cast

11 Feb 2020

So you’ve built your resume, put time into a portfolio, contributed to GitHub, and polished your LinkedIn. After you send in your application, who sees it, and what are they looking for?

Strategy and Tactics

03 Feb 2020

There is a funny thing that happens when consultants are around each other. They keep using big important words. One such set of words that get thrown around a lot is strategy and tactics.

The Life-Changing Magic of Flat Code

31 Jan 2020

Here’s the situation, you come across some code and you have to start making sense of it. As you read the code you begin to build a mental model of how the pieces work, and then slowly but surely you get enough of it in your head that you see potential bugs or areas to improve.

The Basics of Salary Negotiation

15 Jan 2020

One of the golden rules of negotiation is whoever speaks first loses. What are the other rules that exist that, if you use them well, will lead to at least a ten percent increase in your salary?

Choosing a Tech Stack

26 Nov 2019

Not too long ago, I was involved with a new team starting up. The team went through the training and sat at their desks, ready to work on their problem of replacing an existing system. They had a critical decision to make, what would their tech stack be?

Can You Hear Me Now?

05 Sep 2019

Its all-to-often that during meetings, people make numerous decisions and aren’t communicated out. Maybe a new strategic direction was set for a few teams or its time to experiment with agility, we’re going to try OKRs, or a new set of people are being brought on. The decision could be anything, but I guess that one of those probably fits a simple set of criteria.

It’s Always My Last Day

15 Jul 2019

This past Friday, I said goodbye to a Scrum Master. They were contracting at the same company I was and found a different opportunity. During one of our conversations, I asked, “So, did is there any transition?” Their response was a laughing, “No.” But what does a transition look like for someone that coaches teams?

From Strategy to Story

01 Jul 2019

I often wind up with clients who are so fixated on keeping their teams working that they don’t have a clear strategy or vision that they can communicate. They lose themselves in the world of finding more work for the teams to consume. For the few that have a vision or a strategy, there is a considerable gap between that vision or strategy and the work that is happening.

Exploiting Opportunity

24 Jun 2019

There are so many things that happen every day within a team and organization. Even companies that seem to move at a glacial pace have lots of moments that avail themselves to the opportunistic consultant seeking change.

A Blind Retrospective

21 May 2019

No sprints, releases, recent significant events, or even a common thread of problems with a group I’ve never met is the backdrop for a recent retrospective that I facilitated. I refer to a scenario like this as facilitating a blind retrospective. Did I mention this was their first retrospective?

The Best Money I Spent in 2018

17 Apr 2019

My wife and I sometimes joke that 2019 is the year of Ryan. My career seems to be accelerating very rapidly, and I’m exploring new ideas and activities with success. I think one of the reasons that are happening is because of a few key things that I started in 2018.

3 Tips for Guerrilla Facilitation

26 Mar 2019

One of the most important skills for any organization to develop is meeting facilitation. Ever see an invitation pop up on your calendar without a clear statement as to what the meeting will be about? Ever walk into a meeting where discussions happen for an hour and the result is another meeting to try and understand more of what was talked about? What about a meeting where lots of small decisions were made, but the net result is everyone leaves with a different idea of what is going to happen?

The Impossible Bar of a Professional

21 Mar 2019

The deadline is approaching and there is still so much to do. Workdays get longer, the rigor that normally applied to design and testing begin to slide in favor of cranking out more features. The technical debt card starts getting swiped.

Bounded and Centered

18 Mar 2019

There is a tendency in me to look at things as right or wrong, black-and-white, or on-or-off. I know better than to think this way, but I find myself falling into this way of thinking with enough regularity that I thought I’d write about it.

Invisible Member

15 Mar 2019

A new developer shows up to a team. They are eager to contribute and start writing code but have a lot of questions. Where is the source code? How do I set up my environment? How do I build the software? What is the development process here? Where do I look in the code to get an idea of where to start?

The Worst Job in My Career

08 Mar 2019

Within the first 8 months of starting my job, I saw two confirmed cases of sexual harassment and watched colleagues quit at a rate at one person a month. This is the beginning of what I now regard as the worst job in my career.

LeanAgileUS 2019

27 Feb 2019

One year ago I attended my first conference as a speaker. That conference was LeanAgileUS 2018. The organizers invited me to return to speak once again. This is a story of my experience at a conference that holds a special place in my heart.

The Split Mind of a Speaker

23 Feb 2019

I’ve put the work in. Prepared my talk and slides. I arrived at the hotel the day before. Its hours before I’ll attend a speaker event.

Write a Resume that Doesn’t Suck

20 Feb 2019

For developers today they have a lot of things to consider when applying for their first few jobs. Do they build a great portfolio? Do they invest in curating a great GitHub profile? Do they update their resume? Should they craft an ideal cover letter?

What is the Project Timeline

18 Feb 2019

How many times have you heard the phrase “What is the project timeline?” If you were asked this phrase, what was your reaction? Were you waiting with bated breath to speak your thorough analysis and research into an airtight date with milestones? Were you filled with dread as you utter something that you knew was wrong?

Preparing For a Talk

17 Feb 2019

I began to speak at conferences a little a year ago. I remember the first time reaching out to people and asking how they prepared for talks. I went through several recommendations before finding the one that I use today.

A Comment on Commenting

15 Feb 2019

Steve is new to software, they spend a lot of time reading documentation, writing code, commenting it out, and trying again.

Work Early to Work Remote

25 Sep 2018

Early in my career I made a terrible mistake. One that I think many others have made and will continue to make. I ran a remote retrospective with people I didn’t know well enough.

WTF Meeting

30 Jul 2018

Imagine going to a restaurant. You walk in the door, and everything looks right. There are diners sitting at tables and booths. There are wait staff going around to tables. Everything looks right.

Proximity and Change

04 Dec 2017

I was reflecting on my successes and struggles in helping teams experience agile. This led me to consider the relation of proximity and change.

Problem, Observation, Solution

27 Sep 2017

I am working with someone who has a different working style than myself. I find it interesting to watch them work. They often ask how they they can be more effective in their communication.

As an Introvert

26 Sep 2017

On Friday September 15th, I attended the first Agile Coaching Summit. I already told my wife, co-workers, and friends how exhausted I would be from that weekend. Many thought my exhaustion would stem from staying out late and doing lots of activities. I was exhausted because I am an introvert.

My First Time

23 Aug 2017

In 2010 I spent 8 months in the worst job I ever had. For the last 5 or so of those months I was the company’s first an only Scrum Master. The individuals I worked with said that it was the best experience of their careers. This is a story of those 5 months.

Starting With You

15 Aug 2017

My last post was laid out the basic parts of how I think about agile coaching. This post will take on the first piece which is: You.

Thoughts on Agile Coaching

03 Aug 2017

There are incredible people in the world that have taken up the profession of agile coaching. There are others, like me, who are figuring out what to do with their passion. Others still, are trying to make a buck by riding a wave of the current trend.

Change is Hard

02 Aug 2017

You have heard, “Change is hard,” before. There may even be a personal experience that you have where these words were true. Here are my thoughts on those three words.

Blast Radius

09 Jun 2017

I finished my most recent coaching engagement three weeks ago. This team watched another one go through a transformation for the eight months prior.

Fake Deadlines

22 May 2017

Last week, during stand up a manager that I’ve been working with said, out of the blue, that several work items now have a deadline of the next Wednesday. My ears perked up.

What Happens After Standup?

30 Jan 2017

There is enough written about effective and more so ineffective stand-ups. This time I want to explore the idea of what happens after a stand-up is over.

Unleashing Constraints

18 Jan 2017

Early in my career constraints were something that filled me with dread. They spoke only to what I could not do. They held me back. They left me bound and unable to see a path forward.

Test or Die

28 Mar 2016

Testing software isn’t a new subject by any means, but that also doesn’t mean it’s well understood or easy to approach. If you’re starting a new project you have the benefit of only needing to test what you create, but if you have an established, legacy project you have the extra burden of trying to test the other interactions of code and system that already exist.

Developers Working Late

18 Mar 2016

In my previous life as a developer, I would get asked to stay late and work. This happened for only two reasons:

Estimate Value Not Complexity

18 Feb 2016

I want to try and commit a little heresy by talking about story point estimations. Specifically I want to talk about not using them ever again. This is not a call for no estimation, but a fairly different approach. This idea has some problems, is not fully fleshed out, and needs lots of smart people to think about.

Excellence By Proxy

15 Feb 2016

I remain an uncertified agile coach. I wish to continue to remain an uncertified agile coach. I have missed many opportunities because of this position.

Sex, STDs, and Software

20 Jan 2016

Sex is pretty great. Most people of a certain age tend to agree on that point. STDs are not great. Most people agree on that too. Software tends to be a little bit of both.

The Biggest Reason Product Owners Fail

15 Jan 2016

If we are using Scrum as the foundation for our agile process, then we have a Product Owner who is out there discovering and prioritizing the things that continually deliver increasing value to the business and it’s customers.

Cost Is A Constraint, Not A Concern

14 Jan 2016

Companies have to be careful about the costs that they incur. They have to in order to stay in business. This cost-consciousness, can be described in one of two ways, cost as a concern and cost as a constraint.

A Model For High Performing Teams

10 Jan 2016

We all love throwing around, “High-Performing,” teams as something that you get when you transition to agile beliefs and practices. This high-performing team could be described many ways, and I’ll try to provide a way to think about the journey a team takes as they become high-performing.

Entrepreneur Activity: Say Yes

15 Dec 2015

I thought I’d try something a little ambitious and catalog activities that can help people in their endeavors to be better entrepreneurs. So the first activity I’ll write about, I will call, “Say Yes.”

Making Stand-Ups Better

20 Nov 2015

I think most people in software are familiar with the daily stand-up meeting. Everyone literally stands up and then goes around the room answering three basic questions:

People and System Thinking

04 Nov 2015

I am a big believer in system thinking. This can be pretty simply defined as believing that people are doing the best that they can, and that the system they are required to operate in is what dictates the results. Another way of looking at it is realizing that if you put any person in the same situation in a given system, you will almost always get the same results.

Fishing and Iterations

17 Oct 2015

A really good friend of mine was visiting and we were just catching up. We were talking about what things we have been doing with our time and we both surprised one another by saying that we have both taken an interest in Fly Fishing.

Bikeshedding, a How to Guide

21 Sep 2015

Everyone I work with and know has a grand idea for a business or product. I like to ask them lots of questions about their idea to see how much they’ve thought through. It seems most people have constructed a fairly detailed fantasy about their idea being wildly successful.

Features and Gambling

14 Sep 2015

Sometimes, I get a lot of pressure from clients to build more and more features. There are plenty of people who speak on the perils of, “The Feature Trap.” I wanted to try and work out my own way of explaining it, and thought I would share where I wound up after thinking about this for a 5 hour car ride home.

Project Manager -> Product Owner

14 Aug 2015

I’ve been in a lot of organizations that in their adoption of Scrum, they transition project managers to becoming product owners. This is a trend I continue to see, and I thought I’d explore some of those common trends here.

The Hardest Question

13 Aug 2015

There is an endless number of questions that plague any group releasing a product, but there is one that, if ignored, will cripple any chance of success, and if answered, can yield phenomenal results.