General

The Journey

Right now, when I start to write this blog post, I’m on my way back from the best journey I have ever done! We have been four families, with an age span from 4 to 54, travelling to various locations in the United States (like Hawaii, San Francisco & Los Angeles). We all come from Sweden so it’s a long journey, both in distance and time for us. In this blog post, I will tell about which tools and Agile practices we used to make this journey successful!

”TheJourney

Picture 1 – Sunset seen from Santa Monica Pier

Pre-planning

Google Hangouts

Since the four families lives in different places in Sweden, we needed a tool for our planning meetings. We choose Google Hangouts, mainly because some of us use it at work. The planning meetings had no real structure, but screens we shared to for example show interesting hotels that we could book in the different locations we were visiting. The messaging function of Google Hangouts was also used heavily, to send information and URL:s back and forth. This planning meetings started out already in March (nine months prior our departure).

”TheJourney

Picture 2 – Conversion on Google Hangouts planning the trip

Airtable

After a while, we had agreed on a travel plan and we started to do bookings of flights and hotels. We took help from a Traveling Agency for some of the bookings (they were for example able to book cheaper flights). With a lot of information gathered that we needed to keep track of, we selected Airtable as the tool. It is an online tool, and it is easy to invite members to use it. It can be seen as a cross-over between a spreadsheet and a Kanban-board. We used Airtable to store information about our booked flights and hotels as well as suggestions of tourist attractions we wanted to visit.

”TheJourney

Picture 3 – Collection of tourist attractions we wanted to see, gathered in Airtable

The actual journey

The framework for the journey was set with all the bookings we had made. We knew how many days we had planned to stay at each location.

Planning meeting for activities

When we arrived at a new location I hosted a planning meeting to have everyone to agree on what activities we should do the upcoming days. Given the span in age and different interest in the activities, we of course sometimes splited the group of four families into other constellations. Overall, we kept a general plan for each location that everybody agreed upon.

Board for activities

To capture and visualise the planning I put up a simple board with post-its on whatever I found suitable (pro-tip: bring your own tape to make the post-its stick better 🙂 ). One column for each day at the location, and three rows dividing a day into three sections: Before lunch, afternoon and evening. This showed to be pretty sufficient for our needs.

”TheJourney

Picture 4 – A planning board on a glass table

Google Maps

All four families rented their own car for travelling in California, US. The traffic in Los Angeles can be pretty hectic, so it was nearly impossible for us to drive together as a group. To solve this problem we planned routes using Google Maps. We did that at the hotel, while having access to wi-fi. The good thing with Google Maps are that routes can be downloaded (the person who planned the route shared the link using Google Hangouts, and all the other ”navigators” in the separate cars downloaded it to their phones, while having wi-fi access). This way we saved money, not to use roaming to get mobile data. The one thing you miss navigating after an offline route, is traffic updates. Normally this is no problem. But it becomes obvious during rush hours, then Google Maps can offer alternative routes depending on the traffic situation. Sometimes we turned on mobile data when driving in rush hour, to get these traffic updates. 

Overall, we had a very positive experience using Google Maps on the phone for navigating, compared to an ordinary GPS. Actually, the car rental firm wanted 197$ for GPS in the car. Way to expensive!

”TheJourney

Picture 5 – Navigating using Google Maps, shown in offline and night time mode

Summary

The stuff described above helped us to have the structure needed to be able to perform a trip of this kind, without any major disappointments. Travelling a large group together can be quite challenging, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it without any pre-planning/structure (carpe diem may work if you are a smaller group).

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Advertisements

Silicon Valley

I guess you can call this blog post off topic, since it will not cover lean, agile or management directly. However a Scrum board is present in one of the episodes! I just wanted to deeply recommend the tv-series ”Silicon Valley” from HBO. One of the creators behind this comedy is Mike Judge (known for ”Beavis and Butt-Head”). I think it’s funny, some moments even hilarious!!!

””Silicon

(Screen dump from “Silicon Valley” intro, taken from HBO Nordic)

Story

As you can probably image the story is about a start-up company that tries to make it big time in Silicon Valley. Richard is a computer programmer that has invented a super compressing algorithm and started a company around it called Pied Piper. He and his friends lives in Erlich Bachman’s incubator, but it is more of a man cave to be honest. Soon a battle begins between small Pied Piper and a worldwide billon dollar corporation called Hooli (guess what company that name is a travesty of).

The episodes has names like ”Minimum Viable Product” and ”Proof of Concept”, all geeky-familiar to us in the software industry. Season one is available on HBO, and season two opens next Sunday, April 12, 2015. My favorite moment from season one is ”Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency”, I can’t really tell you what it means, you have to watch for yourself! 🙂

Here is a trailer for season two.

If you want to take a break in your lean and agile endeavors, you should definitely check out ”Silicon Valley”! You can also follow the show on Twitter @SiliconHBO.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

How to create a mildly successful blog

Today this blog reached 2500 page views. In some sense, I think its fair to call that mildly successful for a blog started less than six months ago. But if you want to know how to create a wildly successful blog, I suggest that you check out the book ”Soft Skills” by John Sonmez. You can find my review of it here. Buy it and then jump straight to chapter 21 – ”Creating a wildly successful blog”.

””TheAgileist

Are you in a hurry and fine with settling on just mildly successful for the time being? Then be my guest and continue reading! 🙂

How to start up a blog

1. First you need a purpose, why should you start up a blog. My goal is clear, I want to release a book, but without any presumable readers it’s no point of trying to write one. How to get readers? You need some sort of platform to ”send your message from”, hence a blog (then it of course also helps if you are famous or have and ”interesting and selling context”, like working for a cool company. I have neither).

2. Then you need a technical platform for your blog. You can go the easy way and start up a blog on a free service like WordPress or Blogger. They will get you started in no time, but on the other hand, they don’t give you that much control over layout and themes. If you want to have that, you should go for a paid hosting service where you can host your blog. As you may have noticed, I have, for the time being, gone the easy way with wordpress.com. Don’t underestimate this step though! It took me nearly ten hours to compare two blog platforms against each other, learn the basics for both of them (select themes, create a blog posts with pictures. include content from YouTube and Slideshare etc.) and finally make a selection for one of them.

3. You also need something to write about on your blog. You can create content using random thoughts about your life, how to pair socks after laundry or just about anything else you can think of. For your blog to be (at least mildly) successful I think however that you need to focus on a few things. My tagline sums mine up pretty well I think: ”Humble servant in management, lean and agile”. That means I focus only to write about these areas, if I all of a sudden should feel a strong urge to write about for example root beer I would start up another blog for that.

4. Ok, so you got the content coming, now you need to attract huge amount of viewers to your blog. To be truly honest with you, I haven’t really figured out how to do that yet. Promoting the blog from other social medias (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) is the way that I have been using. What have worked best for me is book reviews. I send tweets about my blog posts mentioning the author and the publisher and they have been kind enough (in most cases) to retweet this to their much larger number of followers, which in turn has directed readers to my blog.

5. Finally is the hardest part, consistency. Starting a blog and create a few blog posts is something anyone can do, this is really simple! But to be consistent and putting up at least a blog post a week, and to continue doing so over weeks and months are much harder (I know now from first hand experience). Maybe you find a small theme and can create three or four blog posts out of that, but then? It’s very hard to sit down and write a blog post when the pressure is on. My suggestion is that you keep a list of topics that you want to write about. Then you think about what you should write when you do other things (like a background process). This could go on for days or even weeks. Finally you sit down and write the blog post, it will practically write itself (you will still have to push the keys on the keyboard of course 🙂 ).

Visitors from all over the world

One thing that I’m proud of with my blog is the fact that it has reached viewers from many countries, 74 when I counted. This is really amazing, and shows ”the power of internet”. I would almost call this wildly successful 🙂

””TheAgileist

I would like to say a few words about the top ten list:

  1. USA – The most lean and agile country in the world (except Japan that is 🙂 )? At least most of my viewers come from here.
  2. Sweden – My home country, but also very adoptive in lean and agile
  3. Great Britain – No surprise, large European country
  4. Germany – Same as above
  5. Canada – A bit of a surprise, a special hello goes out to you (I love ice hockey by the way 🙂 )
  6. Poland – Apparently I have a lot of fans here, thank you!
  7. Spain – What can I say, you have the best soccer league in the world! Last #ElClasico was magnificent!
  8. Finland – Neighbour country to Sweden, hyvvää Suomi!
  9. Netherlands – It think Swedes and Dutch is some senses are much the like
  10. France – Another large European country

At the end of the list:

  • Malta
  • Kenya
  • Malaysia
  • Moldova
  • Åland
  • Estonia
  • Morocco
  • Jamaica
  • Latvia
  • Kuwait

Big ”hello” to all of you! How did you find me? I hope you are coming back!

Summary

In fact I owe much of the success of this blog to John Sonmez. He forced me to start up this thing! 🙂 Well not him personally, but one of his strongest advice when it comes to marketing yourself, is that you should have a blog (that is in section 2 – ”Marketing yourself” in ”Soft Skills” by the way). Right now I’m working on his ”taking action”-step: ”Commit to keep your blog up for at least a year”. Thanks to this blog other opportunities have emerged for me, that I hopefully can talk more about later!

John Sonmez also has a great blog himself. It’s aimed towards software developers, but much of the content is applicable to all knowledge workers. John also offers a free blogging course (that I have not had the chance to take yet), but from what I can see is very popular!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Welcome

Hello, my name is Tomas Rybing and I’m an agileist.

What is an agileist? It’s the words agile and idealist put together. With agile I mean software development methods like Scrum and Kanban that are based on Lean, where solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing and (sometimes) cross-functional teams. Agile promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continuous improvements.  An idealist is a person that have high ambitions and strive towards a greater goal, they ”aim for the stars” and acts upon that goal.

To fully define an agileist – he or she helps and coaches other people, thinks a step further, and is also realistic and know that there is a long way to go to ”reach for the stars”.

Welcome!

Best regards,
Tomas

”Tomas
This is probably the one and only picture you will see of me in this blog.